Family Mediation has been around for Decades, however having practiced mediation for over 20 years I am still amazed at how low a profile this process has particularly when the process can generate huge benefits far greater than a court system. It is so tailored to each individuals needs with time being given to focus upon the same. Each participant retains control of the process , pace and outcome. It keeps the children at the forefront of parents minds at all times and in addition to this if financially eligible Legal Aid is still available. This also opens the doors to free legal advice. What is there not to like.
Mediation is not however suitable for everyone and there may well be reasons why mediation simply is not appropriate. However my experience is the majority who refuse mediation is not because mediation is not appropriate but feel the court system is the better option for them looking at the system through rose tinted glasses.
A recent artilcee in the Telegraph however highlighted the difficulties our Justice system are currently experiencing with no real agenda or strategy to change making our court proceedings increasingly less affordable but also more restrictive with the resources to manage the case load put before it.
Lord chief justice says in annual report to parliament that one cause is the rise in number of litigants unrepresented in court. The lord chief justice, Lord Thomas, also said judges felt under-appreciated. Civil justice is unaffordable for most people, more people are being forced to represent themselves, and judges whose pensions have been cut feel underappreciated, according to the lord chief justice.
In his annual report to parliament, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd welcomed the government’s commitment to spending £780m on modernisation and new technology, but delivered a downbeat assessment of the courts in England and Wales.
“Our system of justice has become unaffordable to most,” Thomas said in the introduction to his report. “In consequence there has been a considerable increase of litigants in person for whom our current court system is not really designed.
“Although in common with many other European states the number of court buildings has been reduced through closure, the failure to invest has meant that many of the courtrooms have not been modernised and lack modern means of communication to provide for better access to justice.”
Steep increases in court fees, which judges formally opposed, have meant that the judiciary “whilst accepting the decisions by parliament to increase fees, remains deeply concerned about the effect on access to justice,” Thomas said.
Investment in modernising the courts and the development of online justice would improve the system’s ability to respond to the public’s need, he said.
Thomas, the head of the judiciary in England and Wales, said that judges, in common with many other people, felt their burden of work had increased. “For example, they are having to handle an ever-increasing quantity of challenging and emotionally charged cases in family and crime, as well as an increase in litigants in person,” he said.
“Although judges recognise that they are well paid in comparison to most people, static pay … and adverse alterations to pension arrangements … have had a significant impact. In addition, there has, overall, been a widespread feeling of not being valued or appreciated for their work.”
He said a recent survey had found that 77% of judges with leadership responsibilities felt their work had increased significantly in the past three years, and that they were having to deal with an increasing number of complex matters in addition to their daily court sittings.
Courts will always have a need in our society to resolve the complex legal issues which arise in matters or where the conflict is not manageable within an alternative dispute resolution setting. Otherwise Mediation may well accelerate a tailored fair outcome in a more timely and cost effective way.
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