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Mediation saves lives

Great news from Ireland this week, with the Dáil’s approval of the mediation bill which has been broadly welcomed by mediators and in particular the Mediators’ Institute of Ireland (MII) who confirmed that the majority of their concerns at the drafting stage had been resolved.

“The Bill has been in gestation for over seven years and the MII has been campaigning for such a Bill almost since the Institute’s foundation 25 years ago…This is a significant milestone for the development of mediation in Ireland and an official recognition by the State of the contribution mediation can make to the improvement of dispute resolution systems in Ireland” said Sabine Walsh, MII president.

She went further and added that “the Bill will make mediation more available and deliver better resolutions, at a lower cost, to those who are involved in disputes…Enactment of the Bill has the potential to divert many civil and commercial disputes from our courts and deliver major savings to individuals and the public purse…Whilst the MII recognises that the Seanad now has the important task of considering and scrutinising the Bill, we would encourage Seanadóirí to expedite its passage as soon as possible so that potential of the Bill can begin to be realised through its enactment.”

One can hardly argue with her point especially when you consider what can happen if access to mediation is removed as is highlighted by the effect of the closure of the Centre for Conflict Transformation has had on the number of gang related deaths in Birmingham.

The Centre was closed down five years ago as part of Birmingham City Council's and West Midlands Police’s austerity cuts despite having been credited with reducing the number of incidents of gang violence and murders to record low levels.

Kirk Dawes formerly of the West Midlands Police set up the centre in 2004 when the numbers of deaths caused in gang related incidents were at their highest.

Mr Dawes said that “Despite our massive successes local authorities became complacent and our funding was cut off entirely by 2012…In a way we were victims of our own success because we cut gang crime down so drastically, people in power began believing they had solved the gun and gang problem in the city for good.”

Sadly there have been over 50 shootings in the west midlands in the past 3 months

“What’s missing now is a multi-agency approach such as the Birmingham Reducing Gang Violence initiative, which took a much more co-ordinated look at gang warfare rather than treating it as just a law and order problem…More importantly it sought to talk to the right people on the streets who could influence the younger gangsters...When I set up TCFCT there was 27 gang-related murders in the city that year. By 2010 we had reduced it to three by intervening at the right time.”

The scheme had been copied across the UK in other cities who were suffering similar problems, but during the austerity cuts of 2012 and beyond each of those schemes was also closed.

In any mediation I ask people to balance the cost of mediation against the cost of court, you can see examples on our costs page here, according to the Home Office figures it costs about £1.5 million to investigate and prosecute a gang related murder when it was running the centre was funded by the council and the police and cost only £300,000 a year for its 12 mediators working across Birmingham with a wide variety of backgrounds.

Mr Dawes confirmed this and said “closing mediation actually costs more in the long run because of the policing and court costs when somebody does eventually get shot dead…All gangland violence is based around retaliation and revenge and it can become a never-ending vicious circle if no-one intervenes and tries to mediate between rivals.”

Those mediators dealt with every kind of gang related incident from low level name calling right through to the worst acts of violence, they employed techniques used in the Good Friday agreement and those learned by Mr Dawes when observing similar successful projects run by the New Jersey Police Department between the Crips and the Bloods.

Mr Dawes estimates that “Every year we were stopping nine out of every ten potential killings”, since the cuts in 2012 incidents have been on the rise.

It’s a tragic result of austerity that so many people will have been involved in gang incidents but it is another example of where spending a compartively small amount can save costs (and indeed lives) in the long run.

At the opposite end of the scale and to end on a high note a local junior school in Stockport has recently been training selected students to act as “restorative ambassadors” to intervene in the playground and the classroom in disputes between fellow students.

The training took place over a number of weeks in small intense sessions equipping the ambassadors with the skills to question and guide those involved in disputes to resolution.

I haven’t named the school in question as you have probably guessed because my daughter is one of the restorative ambassadors and it’s been delightful to hear how her training reflects the skills and attitudes that all mediators aspire to when helping others.

If you have any kind of commercial dispute in need of resolution or a family mediation that you need to begin, an argument over land or an employment dispute Northwest Mediation can assist at a rate which is far less than you will incur taking the matter to court. Call Ed Johnson on 07931318347 or via email at

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