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  • Writer's pictureEd Johnson

When is a mediation not a mediation?

With the continued backlog of cases mediation is even more so now than ever the best choice to find a resolution for your dispute. Get your dispute resolved now while you can’t go anywhere you can really concentrate on what’s important and what deserves your time and energy.

Northwest Mediation continues to use Zoom, Skype and FaceTime as well as the phone and emails to resolve disputes should we add we also do live in person mediation too! So please do not feel that you cannot contact us if you would like to mediate but wish to do so remotely.

This week I’ve been listening to James S A Corey’s Cibola Burn, the fourth of the Expanse novels, on Audible, and I was reminded that sometimes a mediation is not a mediation. In the novel James Holden is appointed mediator between the settlers of planet Ilus and the various planetary authorities from the earth system. Except he isn’t. He’s been appointed arbitrator, not mediator. For a start his appointment wasn’t agreed and his remit is equally skewed to simply keep the sides talking not find a resolution (although this being The Expanse he will).

In Canada the same applies to the mediated solution proposed by the governing authority for the bobsled and skeleton athletes, it’s not a mediated solution simply by sticking that label on it. 87 current and retired athletes have written to the Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton (and other Olympic committees) stating that the solution proposed (note not agreed) does nothing to deal with the underlying issues of governance, adding that the selection of the “mediator” was not even done in consultation with the athletes.

For a mediation to actually be a mediation (and for the solution to work) the parties need not only to agree on a solution but at the outset need to have agreed the mediator. I can’t say I like it when one party asks for a quote and then the other party rejects me as mediator in favour of someone else but that’s the selection process (and I will add I’m agreed on more times than not).

Anything other than an agreed solution simply has the same drawbacks of arbitration or litigation, it’s an enforced solution (even if well intentioned) with which one party cannot have engaged with or understood. Otherwise you will have the sort of reaction which the athletes gave "We will continue to outright reject any unilaterally imposed mediation process, where the athletes have no input into the choice of mediator, or a process which does not include the participation of all impacted athletes whether by proxy or their chosen representative"

Hopefully for Canada’s Winter Olympic athletes further work will be done in a more appropriate manner to reach an acceptable solution.

With Putin’s war in Ukraine and solutions to it being actively sort it is perhaps encouraging to see that in Syria community mediation groups were set up to fill the gap left by the lack of courts and legal systems once the fighting in and around Deir Ezzor had largely ended.

It is a sign that the people involved and interested in getting on with their lives want to live in safety not just from war but also from legal problems.

I can only imagine what it is like to face that sort of legal gulf, having been brought up in a society which largely relies on and follows the legal norms to have to start from scratch and effectively appoint neutral mediators to deal with issues would be an anathema to me.

In this area of Syria the starting point appears to be Islamic law and custom which, as with the UK’s own laws which largely derive from a religious base, have their own problems but it is at least a start.

It’s still not really mediation when the community set it up those with the power to determine the outcome of a dispute, possibly still closer to arbitration but the fact that they want to be closer linked to mediation suggests a wish for neutrality and unbiased approach and perhaps more leaning into the win/win outcomes of mediation.

What’s brown and comes out of Cowes? I’m reminded of the old joke as in mediation news it’s not the Ilse of White Ferry but the floating bridge linking the two sides of the town which is in the news.

The troubled replacement chain-boat was supposed to be in operation from 2017 but dispute arose when it failed to work leaving passengers stranded and eventually having to wade to shore. Now the mediation has been said to have a potential to run for weeks if not months Councillor Phil Jordan accepting the council may need to replace the whole boat but that offers and counter offers with builders and architects have been made and talks are ongoing. He added he wanted to avoid court which had a potential cost in the millions.

The three pillars of mediation remain it’s voluntary, it’s confidential, the mediator is independent, by using those pillars to support your work the parties keep control, save costs, save time and energy and reduce stress. Finally this one is mediation, mediator jointly appointed, areas of discussion agreed and intention to be bound by the outcome.

In person or via electronic media as we’ve said before choose to mediate early and resolve your issues effectively, timeously, and with less stress and costs than going to your solicitor so you can get out choose a different path, not quite the road less travelled but perhaps the path less adversarial. You have an interest in the outcome the sooner you get round the mediation table the quicker you can move forward and avoid the grilling a cross examination in court would put you through.

By having a deep and meaningful discussions with parties the mediator elicits what the true “red-lines” are and where there is the potential for compromise, it is with this structured period of reflection that the parties are then able to reach an accord.

The flexible nature of mediation and the possible outcomes make it an ideal way to resolve disputes in an ever-changing world and the open nature of discussions in mediation whilst remaining confidential allows all sides to engage fully in the process and understand the needs of all involved allowing parties to reach a conclusion which both sides can live with and move on.

There are so many situations which could have been resolved by early intervention of mediation it continues to surprise me the lengths the public will go to avoid referral.

Whether you need a mediator to help out with a construction matter in the Northwest, or council’s plans in Cheshire, a civil mediator in London, a commercial mediator in Manchester, a dispute resolution for your family in Liverpool, a neighbourhood mediation in Stockport, then our mediators at Northwest Mediation can help.

Mediation is cheaper, quicker and less stressful than running any case to court, it can help with any dispute whether it's an employment issue or the sale at an under value of a property, a fight with a neighbour, family issues, commercial disputes, civil mediation or inheritance, wills and probate arguments contact Northwest Mediation on 07931318347 or via email at

neighbour mediation; commercial dispute resolution; civil mediation; commercial dispute; corporate dispute; commercial mediator; family mediation; inheritance wills probate mediation; property mediator; civil mediator; civil litigation; fast track mediation; injury mediation

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With the continued backlog of cases mediation is now more than ever the best choice to find a resolution for your dispute.  Get your dispute resolved now so you can really concentrate on what’s import


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