WHAT IS ADR ?
ADR is short for alternative dispute resolution. ADR provides a voluntary alternative to the accepted practice of using the courts to settle civil disputes. The principle forms of ADR are adjudication, arbitration, conciliation and mediation. The best known and most commonly used forms of ADR in the UK are arbitration and mediation but adjudication is rapidly becoming established as a valued method of settling disputes quickly, fairly and cheaply.
It has become popular in some quarters, in particular lawyers and mediation service providers, to regard conciliation, negotiation and mediation alone as ADR. For these people a negotiated settlement is an alternative to having a dispute brought to an end by a third party such as an adjudicator, an arbitrator or a judge. This narrow definition ignores the significance of the voluntary aspect of private dispute settlement and the role that is played in all forms of ADR processed by experts and professionals outside the legal profession.
Civil Disputes : These are disputes between private individuals and or organisations in respect of differences about the parties' respective legal rights and interests. Some legal rights are inherent, such as personal safety, ownership of property, personal integrity and reputation whilst other rights arise out of agreements. The difference or dispute is likely to centre around a failure by one person to perform legal duties owed to another which result in harm to the legal interests of that other person.
The principal categories of civil dispute involve claims founded in the law of contract, the law of tort which is concerned in particular with accidents and professional negligence, breaches of trust and the redistribution of shared property following the break up of relationships. Insurance, the construction and maritime industries and employers are the most common users of ADR processes.
Where ADR is not applicable : ADR is not available for criminal cases which are dealt with by and on behalf of the State before the Criminal Courts. Public Law disputes between individuals and the State, for example a complaint that an application for planning permission has not been dealt with properly by a planning and development licensing authority, are normally dealt with by specialist decision making bodies such as administrative tribunals which whilst distinct from the courts remain part of the State Judicial Machinery. Often the decision making body may be called an adjudicator or an arbitrator but since the decision making process is not voluntary, despite the similarity in name, the process is not part ADR. However, where the organs of state engage in the same type of activities as ordinary people and organisations, such as driving vehicles and business agreements, resultant disputes are civil and can be disposed of by either the civil courts or ADR.