A Canada-based alternative dispute resolution group, ADR Chambers, is setting up in London, and putting some of the country's best-known former judges back in work.
ADR Chambers will be the first mediation outfit to offer a private final appeal procedure when it opens for business later this month.
Its core panel of mediators is comprised largely of retired Law Lords and High Court judges.
Former Law Lord Lord Bridge says: “Myself and many of the other judges enjoy staying in touch with the legal world and retired judges have the experience to give people confidence in the total neutrality and impartiality of the mediation process.”
Alternative dispute resolution is widely used in Canada and was introduced in the UK in the early 1990s. But the private final appeal procedure, which requires the parties to agree to abandon their rights to the Court of Appeal, is new.
A panel of three retired Law Lords or Lord Justices will hear cases and deliver awards within 40 days of completion of any hearing.
Lord Woolf, who was consulted on the desirability of the procedure, is said to be fully behind the system, which will require the consent of the court.
Frances Burton, a barrister who helped Canadian QC Brain Wheatley set up the service, says: “The difference between this and other mediation centres is that the aim is specifically to get a very high calibre of person to decide cases.”