The non-neutral neutral

I’m a mediator, but I’m not neutral.

That’s a strange thing for a mediator to say. Let me explain. When I mediate a case, I promise to be impartial and fair and not to take sides or prejudge the outcome. But I won’t promise that I will be neutral. Neutral sounds to me as if I have no values and no views – as if I’m a statue or made of wood. I think most people would rather have a mediator who is human.

And in some of the mediations I do, I have a duty to remind parties of their rights and responsibilities set out in legislation or codes of practice. When I mediate an alleged claim of discrimination, I don’t take a view on who is right and who is wrong, but I am avowedly anti-discrimination – definitely not a neutral stance. Like most of the parties I work with, I am keen to promote greater equality in our society.

I also think most people would rather have a mediator who believes that mediation is just one way to resolve disputes. It’s not right for every situation, and it should never be compulsory. I am strongly opposed to any government initiative that seeks to drive people into mediation aganst their will. It’s a useful tool, and it should be affordable and accessible, and people should have the information they need about it – but they should always have a choice.

I consider mediation to be an important part of access to justice, but just one part of it, and I am passionate about helping individuals to make informed decisions about issues that affect their everyday life and our wider society.