The usual form of mediation is a pre trial conference in the presence of a Registrar. The purpose of such a conference is to allow the parties to exchange their views in a forum where what is said is “off the record” and cannot be used in evidence at trial.
The experience of this Court is that such conferences lead to settlement in a high percentage of cases reducing the demand on Court resources and reducing the costs to the parties.
Pre trial conferences are usually scheduled when an action is entered for trial.
In some instances the Court or the parties may consider that a settlement conference at an earlier stage of proceedings may be helpful. The Court has the power to order such a conference which is run on the same lines but is generally called a mediation conference. Refer to: Circular to Practitioners: CIV2005/11, Early Mediation.
The main practical difference between a mediation and a pre trial conference occurs if settlement is not achieved. In a pre trial conference the action usually proceeds to a listing conference at which trial dates are set. After a mediation conference, the action will usually proceed to a case management hearing at which a Registrar will make directions to prepare the case for the allocation of a trial date at a late stage.