Boundary Dispute Cases

Oral Answers to Questions — Justice – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 3rd February 2015.

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Photo of Charlie Elphicke Charlie Elphicke Conservative, Dover 11:30 am, 3rd February 2015

What steps his Department is taking to promote mediation and the use of independent experts to reduce the number of boundary dispute cases coming before the courts.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

The coalition is committed to reducing the number of property boundary disputes that come before the courts, as we are to reducing pressure on the court system more widely. I pay tribute to the work my hon. Friend has done, particularly his Property Boundaries (Resolution of Disputes) Bill. We published a scoping study on 15 January, and I hope that will provide a basis for agreeing a way forward that will lead to greater use of mediation and expert determination.

Photo of Charlie Elphicke Charlie Elphicke Conservative, Dover

I thank the Minister for that answer. Does he agree that when neighbour property boundary disputes reach the courts, the legal costs often rack up, making it harder to settle the case? That is why I have been making the case for compulsory fast-track mediation, as in the party wall legislation, to make it easier to proceed and to avoid this problem.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

I am absolutely persuaded that costs mount as people go to court, and I want to see the pressures and costs on our court system, as well as on individuals, reduced. We have taken steps over the past year to increase the use of mediation in the family courts, which has been successful. That should be applied to other disputes, including over property boundaries, and experts should also be used, but whether it is right to go down a mandatory route is the difficult question. I will work with my hon. Friend to see if we can reach agreement on how to move forward.