Mediator and Trainer:
In February 1978 three representatives of the embryo Bristol Courts Family Conciliation Service (now Bristol Family Mediation) were invited to a meeting with Sir Peter Archer, then Solicitor General, and civil servants from the Lord Chancellor's Department, to discuss proposals for a pilot family mediation service in Bristol. The Solicitor General, regretful that he had no funds at his disposal, was nonetheless encouraging, while the senior civil servant from the Lord Chancellor's Department remarked that the government was very interested, because conciliation represented ‘a happy concatenation of economy and humanity'. It was noticeable that even then, economy came before humanity. After nearly 20 years of vigorous campaigning, with support from members of the judiciary and many family lawyers, public funding for family mediation was finally achieved under Pt III of the Family Law Act, through contracts awarded by the Legal Aid Board (afterwards the LSC, now the Legal Aid Agency (LAA)) to family mediation services with trained and LAA-recognised family mediators. Now, under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, with effect from 1 April 2013, economy is again prioritised over humanity, with the withdrawal of legal aid from vulnerable people in need of legal help for private law family proceedings. Legal aid continues to be available for mediation.
The full version of this article appears in the April 2013 issue of Family Law.