Peter Handford

Emeritus Professor

  • The University of Western Australia (M253), 35 Stirling Highway,

    6009 Perth


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Personal profile


Peter taught at the Law School between 1977 and 2016 (continuing in a part-time capacity between 1983 and 1998 when he was the Executive Officer and Director of Research of the Law Reform Commission of Western Australia). He was appointed a Professor in 2004. Peter was the Law School's Deputy Dean until September 2012. Between 2009 and 2012 he was responsible for curriculum reform and planning the transition from the LLB to the JD. He retired in July 2016 and is now a Senior Honorary Research Fellow.

Office: Law Link Building Room 1.40

Roles and responsibilities

Peter has been a member of the editorial board of the Tort Law Review since 1993.

He was the Executive Officer and Director of Research of the Law Reform Commission of Western Australia between 1983 and 1998, and in that capacity was the author of reports on limitation of actions, wills, probate, spent convictions, Police Act offences and sale of goods. He was also a member of the Commission between 1993 and 1995.

Between 1995 and 1997 he was the Western Australian representative on the Uniform Succession Law National Project Committee, and between 2004 and 2019 was a member of the Attorney General's Working Group reviewing the law of succession in Western Australia.

Between 2000 and 2022 Peter was a member of the Francis Burt Law Education Programme Advisory Committee, and from 2013 to 2022 he was the chair of the sub-committee responsible for the oral history programmee and the Old Court House Museum. The Francis Burt Law Education Programme provides community legal education programmes and promotes the community's understanding of the law and the legal system. The Museum now operates independently of the Francis Burt Law Education Programme. Peter continues to act as a consultant to the Museum on matters of West Australian legal history. 

Previous positions

Lecturer in Law, University of Leicester, England, 1970-78
Executive Officer and Director of Research, Law Reform Commission of Australia, 1983-1998
Member, Law Reform Commission of Western Australia, 1993-1995

Current projects

Peter is currently writing a History of the UWA Law School scheduled for publication when the Law School reaches its centenary. 

Peter is currently editing several chapters of the forthcoming 11th edition of Fleming's The Law of Torts, the leading Australian work on this subject.

Teaching overview

Peter taught Torts in the JD degree, and also the LLB optional unit Advanced Torts Law (in partnership with Professor Evelyn Ellis, Emeritus Professor of Public Law at Birmingham University in the UK, and in 2016 with Dr Brenda McGivern). He also taught Torts in the LLB degree.

In past years he has taught other units including Legal Process (continuously from 1982 to 2006), Contract, Comparative Law, Conflict of Laws, and the LLM unit Limitation of Actions.


Peter's major research interests lie in the field of torts, in particular liability for psychiatric injury, limitation of actions, legal history and law reform.

He also has a special interest in comparative law, both generally and in relation to torts in particular.

Recent research projects include
Prosecuting crime in 19th century Western Australia - articles published in (2018) 43 University of Western Australia Law Review 143 and 'Early Days' (Journal of the Royal Western Australian Historical Society) No 103 (2019) 17.

As part of his long-standing interest in tort liability for psychiatric injury, Peter researched the background of the first nervous shock case, Victorian Railways Commissioners v Coultas (1888) and published articles in (2021) American Journal of Legal History and (2022) 49(5) Brief 34. 

Peter has also recently published the fifithe edition of Limitation of Actions: The Laws of Australia, incorporating research on recent legislative changes on limitation of actions and sexual abuse, and other recent developments in limitation of actions law. The text is also published as part of the encyclopedic publication 'The Laws of Australia'.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Research expertise keywords

  • Torts/ Mental Health
  • Torts
  • Limitation Of Actions
  • Legal History
  • Comparative law
  • Conflict of laws
  • Law reform
  • Legal history and biography
  • Legal process
  • Limitation of actions
  • Tortious liability for psychiatric injury


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