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Introduction to UK Cases and Legislation. Bodleian Law Library Last updated November 2009. Session overview -legislation. Types of Legislation The Legislatative process -Bills -Parliamentary process Sources of Legislation - Unamended and amended - Keeping up to date.

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Introduction to uk cases and legislation l.jpg

Introduction to UK Cases and Legislation

Bodleian Law Library

Last updated November 2009

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Session overview -legislation

  • Types of Legislation

  • The Legislatative process


    -Parliamentary process

  • Sources of Legislation

    -Unamended and amended

    - Keeping up to date

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Session overview - cases

  • Reported case law

    - Cases pre 1865

    - Incorporated Council of Law Reporting

    - Authority of law reports

  • Unreported case law

  • Finding case law

    - Citations

    - Sources of case law

  • Updating case law – is it still ‘good law’

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Types of legislation

  • Primary legislation

    • Bills – Public, Private and Hybrid

    • Acts – Public General, Local and Personal

  • Secondary or delegated legislation

    • Statutory Instruments (S.I.s)

    • Orders, Codes of Practice, etc

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Pre-legislative materials

  • Before a Bill is introduced research may have already been conducted in the form of:

    • Green papers

    • White papers

    • Law Commission reports and working papers

    • Royal Commissions

    • Public Inquiries

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Where to find…

  • information on pre-legislative materials:

    • Lawtel – Bills, Command Papers and News & Press databases

    • Internet – check Government websites and the Parliament website

    • Westlaw

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Progress of a Bill

  • A bill can start in either the Commons or Lords

  • First Reading : the bill's title is read out in parliament

  • Second Reading : debate on the general principles of the bill

  • Committee Stage : the bill is examined clause by clause and amendments discussed

  • Report Stage : allows for further amendments to be made on the bill

  • Third Reading : a final opportunity to comment on the amended bill

  • Once the bill has completed the same procedure in each House the final text of Bill is agreed

  • Bill receives Royal Assent and becomes an Act of Parliament

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Where to find Bills

  • information on Bills

    • Parliament website


    • Hansard

    • Weekly Information Bulletin

    • Sessional Information Digest

    • LexisNexis Butterworths

    • Lawtel

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  • Royal Assent

  • Act comes in force:

    • Straightaway

    • Day to be assigned

    • Commencement orders

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Citing references to…

  • Acts:

    • Public General Acts are cited using Arabic numerals, e.g.:

      • Companies Act 1985 (c 6)

    • Prior to 1963 Acts cited by regnal year, e.g.:

      • Debtors Act 1869 (32 & 33 Vict cap 62)

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Citing references to…

  • Acts (continued):

    • Local Acts are cited using Roman numerals, e.g.:

      • British Railways (Liverpool Street Station) Act 1983 (cap. iv)

    • Personal & Private Acts are cited using Arabic numerals given in italics, e.g.:

      • Hugh Small and Norma Small (Marriage Enabling) Act 1982 (cap. 2)

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Where to find legislation

  • Original texts

    • Queen’s Printer’s copy (hard copy)

    • Office of Public Sector Information (OPSI) website (electronic)


    • Current Law Statutes Annotated (hard copy)

    • Justis (electronic)

    • Law Reports Statutes (hard copy)

    • Lawtel (electronic)

  • Amended texts

    • Halsbury’s Statutes (hard copy)

    • LexisNexis Butterworths (electronic)

    • Westlaw (electronic)

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Secondary legislation

  • Majority of secondary legislation is in the form of S.I.s

  • Over 3,500 S.I.s are made each year

  • S.I.s are used to add detail to an Act

  • Also used to bring Acts into force (commencement orders)

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Citing references to…

  • S.I.s

    • Draft S.I.s are not numbered

    • Once an SI is approved it receives the next sequential number within the year, e.g.:

      • The Licensing Act 2003 (Personal licences) Regulations 2005 S.I. 2005 No.41

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Where to find Statutory Instruments

  • information on S.I.s:

    • OPSI website (unamended)


    • Halsbury’s Statutory Instruments (amended)

    • Lexis Library (amended)

    • Justis (unamended)

    • Westlaw (amended)

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Updating legislation

  • Important to always check the status of a piece of legislation:

    • To avoid using out-of-date information

    • Ensure accuracy

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Where to find…

  • the status of a piece of legislation

    • Is It In Force?

    • Lexis Library

    • Justis

    • Lawtel

    • Westlaw Current Law Legislation Citators

    • Halsbury’s Statutes

    • Halsbury’s Statutory Instruments

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  • Wales

    • The Government of Wales Act 1998

    • National Assembly of Wales


  • Scotland

    • The Scotland Act 1998

    • Scottish Parliament


  • The Northern Ireland Act 1998

    • Northern Ireland Assembly


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Reported case law

  • Only small proportion of cases decided by courts are reported

  • Cases are selected by law report editors – not the courts

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Reporting criteria

  • To be reported a case must:

    • raise a point of legal significance

    • materially modify an existing principle of law or settle a doubtful question of law

    • may include questions of interpretation of statutes and important cases illustrating new applications of accepted principles

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Law reporting before 1865

  • Nominate reports 1571-1865

  • Commonly referred to by the name of the reporter of the cases

  • Reprinted in the English Reports

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Law reporting before 1865

  • All England Law Reports Reprint

  • Includes cases between 1558 and 1935

  • Some cases referred to in the All England Law Reports and Halsbury’s Laws of England

  • You may also find some older cases in the Digest

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The Law Reports

  • Comprised of the Appeal Cases (AC) or (App Cas), Chancery Division (Ch), Queen’s Bench (QB), Family Division (Fam)

  • Most authoritative report series

  • Law report decisions are checked by a judge prior to publication

  • Published since 1865 – originally as a single series covering the major courts

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Unreported judgments

  • Transcripts are the unreported version of a judgment

  • Although judgments are “published” on web sites, they remain “unreported” unless published in a law report series

  • Neutral citation gives a judgment a unique identifying number

    • e.g. Horkulak v Cantor Fitzgerald

      [2003] EWHC 1918 (QB)

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Deciphering citations

  • Raistrick, D. Index to legal citations and abbreviations.

    London: Bowker, 1993

  • Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations – or via library web site

  • Halsbury’s Laws of England

  • Current Law

  • The Digest

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Square and round brackets

  • Round brackets ( ) when the year is additional information

    • Derry v Peek (1989) 14 App Cas 337

  • Square brackets [ ] when the year is primary means of identifying the case

    • Lloyd v McMahon [1987] 1 All ER 118

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Sources of Case Law: Hard copy

  • Printed law reports are arranged in the Library according to jurisdiction

  • UK reports are shelved in the “100” series e.g. Cw UK 100

  • Digests are shelved at 200

    e.g. Cw UK 200

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Sources of Case law: Online resources

  • Westlaw

    • This includes the Law Reports series, a large number of subject specialist reports as well as over 180,000 case analysis documents.

  • Lexis Library

    • This includes the Law Reports series, the All England Reports as well as a number of specialist reports.

  • There is a list of online databases on the BLL website at or you can access them via Oxlip+

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Finding the right source

  • Easiest way is to use the online database of reports and journals

  • On the BLL webpage under collections.

  • Can be found at

  • Can also use Justcite

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Unreported judgments - sources

  • Westlaw

  • Lawtel

  • Casetrack


  • House of Lords

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Finding cases by name

  • Online sources such Lexis, Westlaw, Justcite, Bailii

  • Current Law Case Citator

  • Law Report indexes – red indexes

  • The Digest

  • Halsbury’s – Table of Cases volumes

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Finding cases on a subject

  • The Digest

  • Halsbury’s Laws of England

  • Current Law

  • Online sources such as Lexis Library and Westlaw

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Is it still good law?

  • Has the case been cited in later case law?

  • Authority of a case may be strengthened by being approved in a higher court

  • Case may have been overruled

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Hard copy sources

  • Law Reports indexes

    • Commonly referred to as the “red indexes” this is no longer maintained.

  • The Digest

    • Useful for pre and post 1865 cases and includes other Commonwealth jurisdictions

  • Current Law

    • Includes citator information for most law reports series, starts from 1947. Has alphabetical table of cases as well as a subject index

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Online sources

  • Westlaw

    • Has over 180,000 case analysis documents which include case history as well as cases and legislation subsequently cited.

  • Lexis Library

    • Has a Case Search service which is an online citator similar to Westlaw’s case analysis

  • Justcite

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Further help?

  • Self paced tutorials for the databases are available at

  • Contact to arrange 1 to 1 training