(AGENPARL) – Hong Kong, sab 05 gennaio 2019 When a civil dispute is brought to court, the hearing process can be lengthy and expensive. An affordable alternative to contesting matters in court is through mediation, in which a trained and impartial mediator helps the parties in dispute to reach an amicable settlement that is responsive to their needs and acceptable to all sides. Opened in November last year, the West Kowloon Mediation Centre (WKMC) is Hong Kong’s first facility dedicated to mediation. It is conveniently located next to the West Kowloon Law Courts Building which houses the Small Claims Tribunal. The Government appointed the Joint Mediation Helpline Office as an independent co-ordinator for both the centre and the scheme. Joint Mediation Helpline Office Chairman Antony Man revealed how the centre’s newly built red huts’ design is conducive to dialogue and conciliation. “One of the signatures of the WKMC is the Japanese-style courtyard. The greenery and the natural lighting foster a peaceful and harmonious atmosphere which facilitates better discussions during their mediation meetings.” There are two sets of mediation rooms, each comprises two breakout rooms for private meetings and one multipurpose room. “Skills-enhancement events for mediators and other dispute resolution professionals, as well as informative and educational seminars for the general public can be held in the multipurpose room,” Mr Man noted. Free advice The office runs the Small Claims Mediation Pilot Scheme that provides free initial consultation for cases that are deemed suitable for mediation and matches litigants with the right mediators. Disputes that do not exceed the Small Claims Tribunal’s civil jurisdiction limit of $75,000 can be handled under the scheme. If the parties agree to proceed with mediation, then each party is required to pay a nominal, all-inclusive application fee of $200 which is non-refundable, while the mediation and venue fee are waived. Joint Mediation Helpline Office Founding Chairman Chan Bing-woon explained the target of the scheme is to give litigants a cost-effective alternative. “There are suitable cases for this sort of small claims mediation, say for instance water leakage from the upper floor to lower floor. If the case could be resolved through the help of a mediator, the case will not have to go through the judges.” Legal trainingThe pilot scheme also features pairing of mediators with different levels of experience to co-mediate cases, to provide training and promote industry standards. “Most of the newcomers have got the accreditation, but in fact they do not have the necessary experience. By following and getting involved in a mediation case they can learn from the mentor,” added Mr Chan. The office’s Senior Mediation Consultant Cindy Fong encourages people to approach the office for help when they become involved a dispute. “Mediation is a platform allowing the parties to have a direct dialogue so that they can communicate and negotiate directly. They will be able to connect again and tell the other side what are their concerns and what is their difficulty in the dispute.” The Chief Executive’s 2018 Policy Address outlined measures to strengthen promotion of Hong Kong an international legal and dispute resolution hub. The establishment of the mediation centre and its accompanying pilot scheme for small claims cases marks the Government’s commitment to promoting the use of mediation and to enhancing public awareness of its benefits.