Justice Department to urge out-of-court resolutions to avoid expensive litigation The justice minister yesterday unveiled plans to promote the use of mediation to resolve civil disputes . Wong Yan-lung also said that the government was planning to use mediation to settle some land and personal injury cases involving compensation claims to avoid expensive litigation. Speaking at the eighth anniversary celebrations of the Hong Kong Mediation Centre yesterday, Mr Wong said the Department of Justice would actively promote mediation to other departments. 'We will provide legal advice and help the departments formulate related policies and regulations to make sure that they can systematically use mediation to deal with their cases,' he said. A taskforce on mediation would be set up by the Department of Justice's Civil Division, he said, adding that staff on the taskforce would have to undergo training in dispute resolution techniques. 'We need to further improve the quality of mediation services and the efficiency of eligibility assessment. We also have to try our best to standardise procedures for training and accreditation of mediators, and seek international recognition of their qualifications,' he said. Mediation has become an increasingly popular alternative to litigation in many countries. It is a voluntary process in which a trained, impartial mediator helps the parties discuss disputes in a confidential setting. The process is completed with an agreement, which is a legally enforceable contract. Mr Wong said the government planned to use mediation in lands and personal injury cases. He said that there were 28 Land Tribunal cases last year in which claimants sought compensation from the government for a total of HK$180 million. In the same year, there were 111 personal injury cases where damages claimed amounted to HK$29 million. The use of mediation in cases such as these would allow government lawyers to use their limited resources effectively and lighten the load on the courts, he said. Sylvia Siu Wing-yee, a founder of the Hong Kong Mediation Centre, said yesterday that the government should consider implementing the 'alternative dispute resolution' pledge introduced by Britain's lord chancellor in 2001. The pledge requires government departments and agencies to incorporate in their procurement contracts clauses detailing the use of mediation to settle disputes with contractors. Christopher To Wing, secretary-general of the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre, which set up the Hong Kong Mediation Council in 1994, said there was a need to centralise accreditation of mediators, to assure quality. He said he had recently approached Ms Siu on the possible merger of the Mediation Centre and the Mediation Council. But Ms Siu said the merger idea had to be carefully considered because the two mediation bodies served different types of people.