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Selected litigants at Singapore's Supreme Court to get free mediation option

[SINGAPORE] Selected litigants in the Supreme Court will be able to opt to undergo free mediation to resolve their disputes under a new initiative.

Called the SGUnited Mediation Initiative, the Supreme Court will identify and refer suitable cases to the Singapore Mediation Centre (SMC), where a neutral third-party mediator helps disputing parties to achieve a mutually acceptable and amicable resolution.

The purpose of the initiative is to help litigants move on quickly from the business disruption and uncertain economic outlook amid the coronavirus pandemic, said the Supreme Court and the Singapore Mediation Centre in a joint statement on Friday.

The Supreme Court said by facilitating mediated settlements, it hopes that those involved will gain access to more avenues to resolve their disputes quickly and avoid protracted litigation.

"By achieving mutually acceptable outcomes from a successful mediation, parties can save costs as well as minimise the emotional toll that accompanies the litigation," it added.

The Supreme Court said it will identify suitable cases as part of its case management process and invite parties to consider mediation under the initiative.

This will depend on the facts and circumstances of each case, the nature of the disputes, and the underlying interests of the parties and their relationships, it added.

Those selected will be contacted in June. Cases will be fixed for mediation at SMC from July 1 to Aug 31.

A pre-trial conference may be held for the court to discuss the option of mediation under the initiative if necessary.

If the parties agree to mediate, the Supreme Court will refer them to SMC for mediation. SMC will then arrange a date for the mediation and assign volunteer mediators to the case.

Only cases referred by the Supreme Court to SMC will qualify for free mediation under the initiative.

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon said he hopes the initiative will help litigants resolve their disputes amicably and to move on with their lives and businesses as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, SMC executive director Ban Jiun Ean said mediation offers parties the opportunity to "take a step back, reassess their interests and find creative or practical solutions together to move forward".

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