Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Law


Lower court systems to enforce civil obligations are complex and their operation is intertwined with other dispute resolution systems in the community. This interrelationship must be understood to ascertain the role of lower courts. In this thesis I start with that and from that base I deduce desirable features to properly perform the role. This includes systems for debt collecting, fact finding and assisting settlements. The cost of access to lower courts is a primary factor in determining the level of use of them and how they are used. I conclude what are appropriate cost policies to ensure the system operates in a desirable way.

I have used the court in which I work as a primary place of research but I have also used comparative studies of the Dutch, German and Northern Irish courts to inform this topic. The civil code approach to fact finding and assisting settlements has much to offer common law countries. Readers from those countries may find the explanation and conclusions on these aspects to some extent the statement of the obvious.

In looking at the whole system by necessity I am covering a broad range of topics, each of which could be teased out in greater detail. I hope the reader will find my discussion sufficient for my purpose of identifying desirable features of lower court systems that take into account their inter relationship. To make my conclusions manageable I have summarised them at the end of each chapter and have repeated those summaries, with some overarching conclusions in the last chapter.

This work has not been submitted for a degree to any other university or institution.

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