Public Law Research

Public Law Research

Bristol has a strong presence in the research of Public Law. Much of this work crosses thematic boundaries and involves collaboration with other members of the School (notably, those working in Socio-Legal Studies, International Law, European Law, Law and Religion and Human Rights) and/or colleagues elsewhere in the University (for example, those working in the Centre for Market and Public Organisation and the Centre for Medicine and Ethics). Researchers in this field are also highly active at an international level, participating in a number of international collaborative research projects, including the European Commission FP6 Programme on ‘Reflexive Governance in the Public Interest’. Members of the Law School have presented papers at conferences in numerous countries, and are represented on the editorial boards of major journals in this area; for example European Public Law, Policy and Politics, Regulation and Governance, Social and Legal Studies, Ecclesiastical Law Journal, Environmental Law and Management, Journal of Human Rights and the Environment, Economy and Society, Medical Law International. The publications of School members in this area are extensive and only selected examples are referred to here. Major themes within public law research include:

Other work is being carried out in relation to human rights; thus Dr Devyani Prabhat is undertaking work on the Human Rights Act, Counter-terrorism and Rights Mobilization, the Special Immigration Appeals Commission and Citizenship, Special Courts and the Rule of Law, and Dr Athanasios (Akis) Psygkas is researching in the fields of comparative public law, law of democracy, regulation and governance, and democratic constitutionalism. His doctoral dissertation, entitled "From the 'Democratic Deficit' to a 'Democratic Surplus': Constructing Administrative Democracy in Europe," examined the impact of European Union Law on the adoption of participatory regulatory processes at the member state level. Akis is currently working on what he calls 'The Participatory Democracy Index', namely, a model of thinking about stakeholder engagement in public policymaking beyond Election Day.


An interest in regulation unites a number of different areas of work within the School. Professor Tony Prosser works on the regulation of public utilities and broadcasting, and has a special interest in public service law; he is currently researching government economic management, including allocation of public expenditure. His books include The Regulatory Enterprise: Government, Regulation and Legitimacy (2010), The Limits of Competition Law: Markets and Public Services (2005), Regulating the Changing Media (1998) and Law and the Regulators (1997). Professor Bronwen Morgan focuses on the political economy of regulatory reform, the intersection between regulation and social and economic human rights, and global governance is researching issues around meta-regulation and water rights. She is the author of Social Citizenship in the Shadow of Competition: The Bureaucratic Politics of Regulatory Justification (2003), editor of The Intersection of Rights and Regulation (2007), and co-author of An Introduction to Law and Regulation (2007). Professor Dave Cowan and Morag McDermont work on the housing sector, and in particular social housing, and have published Regulating Social Housing: Governing Decline (2006). They are both researchers in the Centre for Market and Public Organisation.  Morag McDermont is also Principal Investigator on a large ESRC grant, ‘Productive Margins: Regulating for Engagement’, collaborative research with communities in Bristol and South Wales which will experiment with new ways in which communities can influence decisions about everyday life.

In the area of environmental regulation, Dr Margherita Pieraccini works on the environmental governance of common-pool resources, considering the interrelation of nature conservation law with property rights and other regulatory instruments and institutions.  She is the co-author of Contested Common Lands: Environmental Governance Past and Present (2011) and has published a number of journal articles on the environmental governance of terrestrial and marine commons.  Janine Sargoni is working on the regulation of geoengineering research, comparing European and US approaches and developing theoretical work on legitimate regulation.   Chris Willmore leads the University Education for Sustainable Development work and is involved in national groups developing this.

Oliver Quick’s main interest is in the regulation of health professions, particularly in relation to issues of safety and trust.  He has recently undertaken a scoping study for the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence on the ‘Impact of regulation on the behaviour of healthcare professionals’; He is also currently writing a book called ‘Regulating Safety and Trust in Medicine: Protecting Patients and Professions’ to be published by Cambridge University Press.

Professor Antonia Layard is in law and geography where she explores how law, legality and maps construct space, place and 'the local'. She has particular interests in 'urban law', and the legal provisions and practices involved in largescale regeneration and infrastructure projects. More information on her research and copies of pre-publication papers can be found here. She tweets as @antonialayard. Her book Law, Place & Maps will be published by Glasshouse Press, Routledge in 2015.

Administrative Justice

Significant research activity also clusters around the theme of administrative justice. Professor Dave Cowan is the co-author of a leading work in this field, The Appeal of Internal Review (2003) and has undertaken government-funded research into the use of judicial discretion in rent arrears cases. Professor Julian Rivers has a particular interest in constitutional reasoning and judicial review under the Human Rights Act 1998, especially as regards the doctrine of proportionality.  Morag McDermont has a European Research Council grant for a programme of research: ‘New Sites of Legal Consciousness: a Case Study of UK Advice Agencies’  Emeritus Professor Martin Partingtonhas analysed both institutional developments in administrative justice over the last forty years and has elucidated the values which underpin the concept. He was a member of the Council on Tribunals and was also expert consultee to the Leggatt Review of Tribunals (2001) and to the review of Employment Tribunals (2002).

Public Health

Bristol is one of very few UK universities with extensive expertise in the field of public health law.  It established the Worldwide Universities Network (WUN) Global Health Justice Network, which seeks to foster international academic collaboration on issues of law, ethics and governance as they intersect with health concerns at a global level. Current work conducted both through and external to the Network focuses upon the prospects of addressing the health implications of climate change through legal and regulatory mechanisms.   

In addition to the above, public law researchers at the Law School also carry out work in the following areas, among others:

For details of research in these fields, please follow the links.