Impact case study
Informing Dispute Resolution (Best) Practice in the Civil Justice and Insolvency Practitioner Fields
Unit(s) of assessment: Law
Research theme: Safety and Security of Citizens and Society
School: Nottingham Law School
Researchers at NTU have influenced debate and impacted on practice in dispute resolution frameworks over a number of years.
Professor Mary Seneviratne's work on the civil litigation system (with Professor John Peysner), has had a significant influence on reviews of civil justice systems internationally. Seneviratne's work on insolvency complaints and disciplinary procedures (with Professor Adrian Walters) has informed both domestic parliamentary and international debate on insolvency practitioner regulation.
Access to justice
Peysner was consulted as one of a small group of distinguished academic lawyers as part of the Review of Civil Litigation Costs (Ministry of Justice, 2009). Peysner's article 'Predictability and budgeting', (2004) was cited in evidence at the review.
A report by Peysner and Seneviratne, 'The management of civil cases: the courts and the post-Woolf landscape', was cited in the Report of the Scottish Civil Courts Review (2009) as evidence that case management conferences were one of the main successes of the civil justice reforms in England and Wales but also that the system of allocating cases to judges could be improved.
The Peysner / Seneviratne report has been widely influential in reviews of civil justice systems in Australia. The report's findings were a key influence underpinning the view in the Attorney General of New South Wales' ADR blueprint discussion paper (2009).
Complaints handling in the insolvency profession
The 2008-09 report on insolvency practitioners by the House of Commons Business and Enterprise Committee cited the work of Seneviratne and Walters. Their research provided the sponsor of the report, the Insolvency Practices Council (IPC), with an evidence base for its recommendations to reform complaints handling in its annual reports.
The IPC's annual reports and recommendations were considered by the Joint Insolvency Committee, the body that co-ordinates regulation across the eight organisations that are authorised to license and regulate insolvency practitioners in the UK. The research therefore fed directly into the formal structures that are in place for the co-ordination of regulatory practice.
The Seneviratne / Walters research was also cited in a report of the House of Commons Business and Enterprise Committee in 2009 and directly informed the committee’s recommendation that the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills should undertake a cost/benefit analysis of the case for establishing an insolvency ombudsman.
The research has also informed a review of complaints handling and disciplinary practices in the Australian insolvency profession.
Access to justice
Peysner and Seneviratne's report, The management of civil cases: the courts and the post-Woolf landscape (2005) was commissioned and funded by the (then) Department of Constitutional Affairs. It evaluated the 1999 Woolf reforms to the civil justice system, which encouraged early settlement of disputes and alternatives to litigation.
The research included a qualitative study of the management of fast-track and multi-track cases in 2003 and 2004. Peysner and Seneviratne noted a drop in litigated cases, an increased quality and pace of dispute resolution but increased costs. The study has been referred to domestically and internationally in evaluations of civil justice frameworks and proposed reforms conducted in other jurisdictions.
Peysner also published a 2004 journal article based on this jointly-researched project.
Complaints handling in the insolvency profession
Seneviratne and Walters conducted two externally funded projects in 2007-08 for the Insolvency Practices Council:
- The 2008 project investigated complaints handling and disciplinary procedures in the insolvency practitioner profession. The research drew on information that was already in the public domain, supplemented by semi-structured interviews with representatives of the Insolvency Service, the seven recognised professional bodies that license insolvency practitioners in Great Britain and ten insolvency practitioner firms in England and Wales.
- The 2009 project built on the insights of the first project by comparing the insolvency regulators' complaints handling and disciplinary procedures with comparable systems in other professions and industries. It then set out the findings, framing the comparison by reference to broad themes of jurisdiction, purpose, context, accessibility, process, remedies, sanctions, accountability and independence.
Citation of the Peysner and Seneviratne report (2005):
- Report of the Scottish civil courts review, (2009). Citations of findings of Peysner and Seneviratne in relation to the impact of civil justice reforms at p.105, p.146, p.178, p.191, p.205, p.350.
- ADR blueprint discussion paper, Attorney General of New South Wales, (2009). Citations at p.15 and p.26.
- Discovery in federal courts (ALRC CP 2), Australian Law Reform Commission, (2010). Paragraphs 5.28 and 5.42.
- Review of civil litigation costs, (Ministry of Justice, 2009) by The Right Hon Lord Justice Jackson. Citations at p.11, p.217, and p.233.
Direct citation of Seneviratne and Walters (2009):
- The Insolvency Service (Sixth report of session 2008-09), House of Commons Business and Enterprise Committee. paras 52-53 (recognition of the importance of the work by Seneviratne and Walters in informing a decision to undertake a cost benefit analysis of the desirability of establishing an insolvency ombudsman).
Reception of the research into the work and recommendations of the Insolvency Practices Council see:
- Annual report 2008 Insolvency Practices Council (2009). Endorsing recommendations made by Seneviratne and Walters.
Citation of the Seneviratne and Walters report (2008):
- Personal debt management and debt enforcement, Irish Law Reform Commission (2008). Seneviratne and Walters (2008). Extensively cited as a source to describe the contours of the UK regulatory system.
- The market for corporate insolvency practitioners, Office of Fair Trading (June 2010). Cites the report’s findings in relation to the close link between complaints and disciplinary procedures in the insolvency Recognised Professional Bodies.
- Peysner, J. and Seneviratne, M., 2005. The management of civil cases: the courts and the post-Woolf landscape. Commissioned by the Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA Research Series 9/05, 2005).
- Peysner, J., 2004. “Predictability and Budgeting”, 23 Civil Justice Quarterly 15.
- Seneviratne, M. and Walters, A., 2009. Complaints handling by the regulators of insolvency practitioners: A comparative study. Report for the UK Insolvency Practices Council.
- Seneviratne, M. and Walters, A., 2008. Complaints handling in the insolvency practitioner profession. Report for the Insolvency Practices Council.