Cases are the decisions of the law courts and are known as 'judge-made' law. Thousands of cases are heard each year in England and Wales and only a fraction are "reported" i.e. published. As a rules only those cases that develop the law, its application or interpretation are included which means all Supreme Court cases are published, but only a small proportion from the Court Of Appeal, High Court and specialist courts. You may find transcripts of some 'unreported' cases but the remainder are not recorded at all.
Practically all reported case-law and some unreported case-law is available online but understanding how the printed reports are organised can help to understand the system of law reporting. There is no official series of law reports but the series known collectively as 'The Law Reports' which are published by the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting are considered as 'semi-official' because these reports are approved by judges. They are the preferred report to use in court, contain arguments by counsel and are regarded as the most 'authoritative' texts. Other reports are published by commercial publishers such as Lexis/Butterworths or Sweet an Maxwell and these general and specialist (or topic based) series.
Many cases are reported in more than one series of reports; if you have a reading-list reference to, for example, the Weekly law reports but are unable to find the volume you require, you can often find other sources which will provide an identical report. There are two points to watch out for:
(a) Not all reports of cases give the full text of the judgement: those in, for example, the Times, the Solicitors' journal or the New law journal are merely summaries.
(b) If a case has been heard in more than one court, say in the High Court and then in the Court of Appeal, the various stages of the action may be reported in different series of reports, or in different volumes of the same series. Make sure that you have found the one that you really want.
Most citations to case reports (and also many law journals) are given in abbreviated form. There are two main systems of case citations.
These citations generally look as follows:
a. Vandervell v IRC  2 AC 291
b. R v Miller  2 QB 282
c. Is interpreted as the names of the parties concerned (Vandervell v IRC), the year the case was reported (1967), volume number (2), the abbreviated title of the law report series (AC = Appeal Cases), and page number (291).
b. Is interpreted as the names of the parties concerned (R v Miller - all criminal cases in the UK are 'The Queen' or Regina versus the defendant), the year the case was reported (1954), the volume number (2), the abbreviated title of the law report series (QB=Queens Bench), and the page number (282).
These were introduced in 2001 and do not refer to any one series of law reports but are aimed at making it easier to locate judgements on the internet. The term 'neutral' is intended to show that it is independent of any published report ('media neutral'). They look as follows:
Attia v British Gas  EWCA Civ 8
This is interpreted as party (or case) names (Attia v British Gas), year of judgement (1987), abbreviation of the court where the case was heard (EWCA Civ = England and Wales Court of Appeal, Civil Division) and a unique case number (8).
The neutral citation format does not use page numbers as internet pages do not have page numbers. Neutral citations instead use a paragraph number in square brackets as so:
Attia v British Gas  EWCA 8 at 
To find out what the abbreviations mean there are two major reference tools:
Raistrick, D Index to Legal Citations and Abbreviations. 3rd ed. 2008. Law Ref. K 51
Most case-law is available in electronic format either on a subscription service such as Lexis Library, Westlaw or LawTel or more recent cases are available via free websites such as BIALLI & high profile cases on the Judiciary website.
Both Lexis Library and Westlaw provide the facility to search via citation just click on Cases and use the Find by citation field and type in the citation (you do not need square brackets or capitalisation).
Westlaw - click on Cases and search using the Party Names field.
Lexis Library - click on Cases and search by the Case Name field.
Tip: if you are unsure of the spelling of the names you can use a wildcard character to replace one or two letters you are unsure of e.g. bernst**n will find berntein and bernstien.
Westlaw - click on Cases and choose Advanced search and either enter your
terms in the Subject/Keyword field or choose terms from the List of Terms
Lexis Library - click on Cases and enter your keywords in the Subject Terms field.
Tip: You can expand or reduce your results by using connectors, proximity searching or phrase searching.
The Library has a large collection of printed law reports, some of the main series are listed below and other more specialised series can be found by searching the library catalogue by periodical title using the title of the series or abbreviation. Alternatively if you are unsure of the title you can use the keyword search using the topic/subject and the words 'Law reports'.
All England Law Reports (ALLER) KD 288.A1
Weekly Law Reports (WLR) KD 282
A further explanation of the main series of printed law reports can be found in the English Law Guide.
Since 1865 the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting has produced series of law reports in a standardised form. Prior to 1865 (between the mid-sixteenth and mid-nineteenth centuries) law reports were usually (though not invariably) known by the name of the reporter(s) or compiler(s) who produced them, e.g. Coke's reports, Durnford and East's reports. For this reason they are sometimes referred to as "nominate reports". The best source for pre-1865 English law reports is a modern reprint:
This series contains the text of all the major series of nominate reports. The volume a particular series of "nominate reports" may be located in can be in Raistrick, D. Index to legal citations and abbreviations. 1993. Law Ref. K 51). In addition, a two-volume index (vols. 177-178) lists cases in alphabetical order.
Alternatively you can search via the case name or citation using the subscription service HeinOnline or Westlaw (see link above).
Official transcripts provide the full text of the judgment of a case but do not contain any of the other information you may find in a law report (such as the catchwords or headnotes). A quick way of identifying transcripts is that they usually only have a neutral citation.
You will often find citations to official transcripts on your reading lists as many academics read judgments as soon as they are handed down, which is often before any printed report is published.
Transcripts are generally freely available on the web and can be found on sites mentioned above as well as pn Westlaw, Lexis & Lawtel.
Enter some of the words from the party names in the Search box and click on Search. Or choose the Case Law search option. Or browse using the A-Z index or year.
Includes judgements of high profile cases from 2009 onwards & also includes court guides and notices, practice directions etc.
A very useful archive site for finding HL cases quickly if you know the date, the site lists HTML versions of all House of Lords judgments delivered from 14 November 1996 to 30 July 2009.
The Supreme Court is the final court of appeal in the UK for civil cases. It hears appeals in criminal cases from England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It hears cases of the greatest public or constitutional importance affecting the whole population.
Daily updated index of unreported cases, with summaries back 20 years; index of articles from major UK legal publications; legislation and case citator; statute summaries and legislation tracking service (commencement and repeals, Bills and Command Papers) and jobs.
Contains historical and legal background to trials at the Old Bailey as well as the accounts of criminal trials held at London's central criminal court from 1674 to 1913
UK legislation can be divided into two main types:
Primary Legislation in the UK is known as 'Acts of Parliament' or 'Statutes' and is made by the legislative branch of government.
Secondary Legislation is also called subordinate or delegated legislation and is law made by an executive authority under powers given to them by primary legislation in order to implement and administer the requirements of the acts. Secondary legislation includes statutory instruments and byelaws.
The officially published series of UK Statutes is called Public General Acts and is located in the Library on Floor 4 at the classmark KD 125. The library has a complete set of Acts from the year 1798 to the present but also some earlier years. Much legislation can also be found on the web. The government department the Office for Public Sector Information publishes UK legislation (on legislation.gov - see below) on the web and the British and Irish Legal Information Institute also provides legislation on the web.
The links below distinguish between consolidated legislation and the text of acts as they were published (original texts). This is because overtime an original Act can be altered as parts or sections are repealed or amended by later Acts. Consolidated legislation is thus the complete revised text and includes all amendments and repeals.
1988 to current and most pre-1988 primary legislation is available on this site. In some cases the site contains only the original published (as enacted) version and no revised version.
1988 to current and some older statutes.
Official revised version of all in force UK legislation.
Contains the full, amended (consolidated) text of all in force Acts of Parliament from 1266, the file is updated daily (Monday to Friday) and the texts appear within 2 days of publication. Also includes, summaries of UK Acts. Allows searching by title (or name), section, keyword or topic.
Contains consolidated law in force from 1267 and unamended full text (original text as published) from 1992. Allows searching by title (or name), section, keyword or topic.
Statutory instruments (SI) are located in the Law Collection on Floor 4 at classmark KD 166. To find a particular SI in the official series you need to know the year and sequential number i.e. SI 2006/236. If you do not know the number you can use a subject based guide, such as Halsbury's Statutory Instruments, or consult an A to Z list, or search by topic and keywords on Lexis or Westlaw (see below).
Selected coverage 1973-1986; full coverage 1987 to current.
From 1987 to current
A subject based encyclopedia.
This source contains the full, amended text of all public general SIs that are currently in force from 1786 onwards. Legislation that has been recently enacted but is not yet in force is also included. SI's can be browsed by year or searched by title (or name), section, keyword or topic and the Halsbury's SI citator allows browsing alphabetically by topic.
Statutory instruments currently in force in the United Kingdom from 1992 onwards and a selection of UK SI's of general application published between 1948 and 1991.Westlaw allows searching by title (or name), section, keyword or topic and browsing by year or alphabetically.
An annual supplement to Halsbury's Statutes called Is it in force? enables you to establish whether an act (or section of an act) has come into force. Is it in force? is shelved at the end of Halsbury's Statutes at KD 135.H3. It covers all acts of general application in England and Wales (and all General Synod measures) passed in the last 25 years. It is also available online on Lexis Library.
Click on Legislation link at the top, choose the act you wish to look at by browsing by year or title, click on 'Overview Document' on the left-hand side of the screen.
This document provides a summary of important information about the whole Act or SI detailing: All Amendments pending (i.e. those amendments not yet incorporated into the full text); All Commencement information pertaining to an Act/SI (except pre-1991 commencement information for Acts); All Amendments made to the full text (except amendments to pre-1991 amendments to Acts); All SIs enabled under authority of an Act; Any EU Law implemented by an Act or SI.
If you wish to check a particular provision of an act, click on Legislation, search for the act and provision you require, click on the provision to see the full text and under 'Legislation Analysis' on the left-hand side of the screen, choose 'Current Law in Force'.
Legislation can be divided into two main types:
The various treaties establishing and amending these treaties.
Also called subordinate or delegated legislation. The main instruments of secondary legislation are regulations, directives, decisions, recommendations and opinions and are all published in the Official Journal of the European Communities (OJ).
The official EU gateway to legal information, containing the Treaties, legislation, case-law, official documents (preparatory legislation) and the Official Journal (OJ).
The EURLEX is the official EU portal for EU law and provides complete collections of EU legal texts. This search engine allows searching for specific documents by citation (natural number) or category e.g. legislation, case-law or a general search by terms or EUROVOC keywords (EUROVOC is a EU thesaurus which provides controlled keywords for different topics).
All secondary legislation is published in the 'L (Legislation) Series' of the Official Journal (often referred to as OJ L) and is located in print format in the Albert Sloman Library European Documentation Centre on Floor 4 at classmark J 280.2. The L series is published daily and divided into two sections. The first contains acts whose publication is obligatory, eg Regulations; the second section contains acts whose publication is not obligatory, eg Directives, Decisions, etc. The official journal is also available in pdf format from 1998 onwards on Eurlex.
The 'Summaries of EU legislation' website presents the main aspects of European Union (EU) legislation in a concise & easy-to-read manner. It forms part of the Europa portal, which is published by the EU institutions.
Full text of legislative acts of the Council of the European Union, the European Parliament, and the European Commission reported in the Official Journal of the European Community, L Series, including international agreements; secondary legislation such as regulations and European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) general decisions, directives, and recommendations; and supplementary legislation (legislation resulting from agreements between member states). Coverage begins with 1952. The File EU-LEG is located in the Westlaw UK directory under European Union > Legislation. See the database menu for access to Westlaw and database guide for search help.
The EU Legislation file on LNB covers Decisions, Directives and Regulations of the European Union. Also included, under the heading 'Other', are Notices, Communications, Guidelines, Recommendations, Common Positions, comfort letters from the Commission, and Information. Within the 'Consolidated Law' folder are weekly updated PDFs of the Official Journal entries for all EU legislation searchable by Celex number.
A common gateway to national implementing measures which aims to help facilitate access to information on how directives have been transposed by 22 of the member states (Cyprus, Hungary and Latvia are not included).
There are two institutions that hear European Union cases: The European Court of Justice (ECJ) and The Court of First Instance (CFI).
The European Court of Justice (or its official title Court of Justice of the European Communities) was created by the Treaty of Rome, and interprets an applies European Union law as found in the treaties and legislation.
The Court of First Instance was created in 1989 to assist with the case load of the ECJ, and principally hears cases dealing with competition law, dumping, subsidies and staff grievances. Decisions of the Court of First Instance can be referred to the European Court of Justice for appeal.
Each case is given a case number when it is referred to the Court. Cases before the European Court of Justice have the prefix 'C' and cases before the Court of First Instance the prefix 'T' e.g. T-168/96: Action brought on 22 October 1996 by Catherine Patronis against the Council of the European Union.
A full citation to a case would include this number plus the reference to where you can find the text of the case report
A typical citation to an ECJ case looks like this:
Case C-132/92 Birds Eye Walls Ltd v Friedel M Roberts  ECR I-5579
This is interpreted as European Court of Justice (C), year it was added to the register (), case number (), party names (), year the report of the decision was published (), abbreviated title of the series of reports the case was published in (), section of the reports (), and page number ().ished (), abbreviated title of the series of reports the case was published in (), section of the reports (), and page number ().
Is the official website of the European Court of Justice. It can be navigated using a.)Numerical access to case-law - a browsable list of all cases, a very straightforward way to find a case, if you know the case number.
b.)Search Form - allows searching by case number, case name, keywords in the text and date.
The site also includes a digest which provides summaries which contain the essential points of law laid down in the decision in question.
Is the European Unions official portal to legal information. The case-law section provides a list of recent cases in each court plus a search engine for finding cases via case number or by year.
Click 'Cases' and you can choose to search by party names, search terms, citation (publication reference), date, judges or counsel. Note make sure you tick the box to search the ECJ or CFI.
TIP: Click the search tips to help you search using keywords. This link explains how to use connectors, proximity searching, phrase searching, truncation and wild cards. This can make your search more accurate or if you are not finding any results help to widen your search to include more terms or information.
Click 'EU' and you can choose to search using terms (keywords), parties or case name, case number, or publication reference. You can also browse by party (case) name or year.
TIP: Click on 'List of Connectors' to help you search using keywords. This link explains how to use connectors, proximity searching, phrase searching, truncation and wild cards. This can make your search more accurate or if you are not finding any results help to widen your search to include more terms or information.
European Union cases are officially reported in two publications:
1.The Official Journal of The European Communities (OJ) J 280.2 - the 'C' series publishes court orders and judgements, plus a list of cases filed before the ECJ
2.Reports of Cases Before The Court of Justice and The Court of First Instance J 294 (usually referred to as the European Court Reports ECR) - this is the official reporter for EU court cases, the publication is divided two main sections, Section I which contains ECJ cases and Section II which publishes CFI cases.
Another source that you should be aware of is the commercially published Common Market Law Reports (CMLR) (not to be confused with the Common Market Law Review (CMLRev) which contains journal articles). This is held in the Library at KJA 150 + Online journal. The CMLR is published weekly, each volumes four months and has its own index.
High quality web resources for legal studies and research
Designed to facilitate accurate citation of authorities, legislation, and other legal materials. It was produced by the Oxford Law Faculty in consultation with leading academic law publishers and serves as the style guide for the Oxford University Commonwealth Law Journal, as well as for theses written in the Law Faculty. It is the closest that the UK has to what in the US is known as the Blue Book.
Covers: constitutional law; contract; criminal; equity and trusts; EU; land & property; tort; banking; child; commercial; company; competition; employment; environmental; family; human rights; information technology; intellectual property; international criminal; jurisprudence; law and economics; maritime; media; medical law; and public international law.
An excellent site covering all aspects of international law including: international criminal law; dispute resolution; environmental law; economic law; communications and transport; private international law; air, space & water law; international human rights; and use of force.
Contains chapters the European Union; Human Rights; International Commercial Arbitration; International Criminal Law; International Economic Law; International Environmental Law; International Intellectual Property Law; International Organizations; Private International Law; Treaties; and the United Nations. Is augmented by EISIL, see the Web Directories section below.