Mediation is where someone independent of both you and the person who you feel is being anti-social towards you comes to listen to both of you and seek to resolve the problem.
In anti-social behaviour, there are many clear-cut cases where there is a victim or victims and a perpetrator or perpetrators. Someone chooses to behave in an inconsiderate way and their neighbours suffer from this behaviour, try and tolerate it and eventually report it. The perpetrator does not care about the effects of their behaviour on others. In a situation like this mediation would be difficult.
However, there are also many cases where the picture is less black and white. This is perhaps more common now as we so often do not know our neighbours. As such we do not know what their lifestyle is like, what is important to them and what causes them stress.
Mediation is an effective way to stop anti-social behaviour before it gets worse, hopefully before it starts to impact on your health.
UK Mediation has this to say about Neighbourhood Mediation:
Neighbourhood Mediation – keeping you and your neighbours on good terms
“Your home is your castle. You don’t want anyone intruding into your personal space, disturbing your peace and relaxation, or preventing you from enjoying the time you spend at home or with your family.
Most of us have neighbours, and we can get on with them most of the time. And when there are any difficulties or disagreements, most of the time we can all sort things out with a chat over the fence. Sometimes, however, communication breaks down. There are disagreements or persistent complaints which, if left unaddressed, can turn into more significant problems.
Mediation is a quick, cost effective and private method of resolving your dispute, saving you from the stresses and costs of court of formal action. An expert mediator can get you and your neighbours talking again: clearing up misunderstandings, agreeing practical steps for how to make things better between you, and moving on from your disagreements.”
Mediators help people in a situation find a solution that is acceptable to all parties. They visit everyone concerned, listen to what the problem is and what they want to see change. They will then arrange a neutral venue for a confidential joint meeting. At that meeting ground rules are agreed, such as not interrupting and using respectful language, and then each person has the opportunity to explain the problem as they see it.
Mediators listen to all sides and then work with them to identify the issues that need to be addressed and how they are going to do that. The mediator will not solve the problem for them, but help the people involved come to an agreement on what needs to be done going forwards to resolve the issues. Mediators are independent and do not take sides.
Mediation requires time and effort to make it work. However, so does taking someone to court – a LOT more time and effort. Even in court, if a case got that far, magistrates would want to see that all other ways to resolve the problem have been considered and mediation may be recommended anyway. Agreeing to mediation shows you are willing to try to understand the other person’s perspective and find a compromise.
Some people who suffer ASB simply want the perpetrator to be evicted from their home. As a charity seeking to be a voice for victims of ASB, our focus is strongly on the aim being to STOP the anti-social behaviour, not make someone homeless. Mediation can be very effective to stop the behaviour that is causing you distress and restore neighbourhood relationships.
The disadvantage of most mediation in the UK is that it has a cost. Some areas provide a free service but not everywhere. You may also be able to convince your local authority to pay for the mediation – it will still cost them less than taking court action.
There is no overall organisation to represent all mediators in the country. The College of Mediators is a membership-based organisation where you can find local mediators, but only those that have chosen to become a member will be registered. Your best source of information is your local authority which should have information about local mediation services in the area. You can also arrange informal mediation with someone independent in the community coming to listen to both parties – perhaps a Neighbourhood Watch member or the local vicar.
Unfortunately mediation will only work if both parties involved agree to it. If you want to try mediation but the person whose behaviour is causing you alarm or distress does not want to try mediation, you are stuck and will have to rely on local agencies taking necessary action.