The introduction of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (2012) meant that fewer people had access to free legal representation than when legal aid was in place. This entirely excluded many areas of law from the provision of legal aid.
This coupled with the recent economic crisis means that many people involved in disputes are limited in their options with respect to accessing justice and many do not have the financial wherewithal to bring about court proceedings.
It is also considered that litigation proceedings should only be brought about as a last resort and that Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) should be undertaken first to try to resolve matters. Whilst the courts appreciate that mediation is not suitable in all cases, where they consider that it might have been appropriate they can impose costs sanctions on parties who refuse to engage. This is particularly the case if the courts feel a party has been unreasonable in refusing to engage with ADR in line with the principles set out in the case of Halsey. ADR saves courts time and costs which is in line with the overriding objective of the court to deal with cases justly and at a proportionate cost. This approach was highlighted in the recent case of P4 Ltd where a refusal to mediate was considered unreasonable by reference to Halsey factors.
Whilst mediation can be required via a court order or through statute, it is generally a voluntary process allowing for disputing parties to discuss the matters at hand confidentially via a third-party mediator. The mediator will be highly trained in all areas of mediation leading to better negotiation, expectation management and resolution between parties.
Figures reported by the Civil Mediation Council have shown that around 75-80% of cases settle on the day of mediation with a further 10-15% settling shortly after, saving time, money and avoiding further damage to relationships.
With mediation being available for most matters not of a criminal nature, it can certainly be a less costly way to resolve disputes matters such as business disputes and landlord and tenant disagreements.
Taking all this into consideration and given that the economic crisis is not likely to resolve in the near future, mediation is becoming increasingly considered to be an attractive and viable option for many people.
With this in mind, SHU Law has recently expanded its not for profit services to include a mediation service for parties involved in disputes. This is led by Ruth Dawson who is the head of the commercial dispute resolution and small claims department at SHU Law. Ruth is a solicitor that specialises in consumer and commercial disputes. Clients can be assured of a wealth of experience from Ruth’s training within a commercial law firm in London, dealing with a wide range of disputes at various stages of the process. SHU Law is committed to helping resolve disputes in their early stages, which can avoid the need for court proceedings.
By Louise Taylor – Level 5 Sheffield Hallam Law Student
 https://www.familylaw.co.uk/news_and_comment/bar-council-report-claims-laspo-damages-access-to-justice Date accessed 30/09/2022
 https://www.lawsociety.org.uk/topics/pro-bono/introduction-to-pro-bono date accessed 25/01/2023
 Halsey -v- Milton Keynes General Trust  EWCA Civ 576.
 P4 Ltd v Unite Integrated Solutions Plc  EWHC 2924 (TCC), [2007
 https://civilmediation.org/facts-about-mediation/#:~:text=Around%2075%2D80%25%20of%20cases,%2D15%25%20settle%20shortly%20after.No Fields Found.