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Law: Cases

This guide is a list of sources for legal research.

Case law reports and how to find them

Law reports are the written record of cases, including the facts and arguments of the cases, but more importantly, the judgments and the legal reasoning for those judgments.  Not all cases are reported.  In England & Wales, only cases from the higher courts are reported*.  Higher court cases that are reported are those which set precedent or develop points of law.  This means that not all cases, even from the higher courts, are reported.  However, since about the year 2000, the majority can now be found in transcript form through the main subscription law databases or via the freely available BAILII site.  Earlier transcripts may be available elsewhere (especially through vLex Justis), but the full detail of some cases is confidential (this applies especially to family and commercial matters).  If you need a case report which can not be found easily via the usual sources (Westlaw, Lexis+. Lawtel, i-law, vLex Justis or BAILII), please ask the Law Librarian.

The Law Reports in the Hartley Library are arranged by jurisdiction, then alphabetically by title within each jurisdiction.  The main emphasis is on English law, but other jurisdictions are covered.  Library Search provides details of printed holdings. Most law reports are now available online but it is still worth understanding the citations for law reports as this can help you find printed law reports not available electronically.

* Cases from Crown, County and Magistrates Courts are not routinely reported in the legal sense.  There may be newspaper reports or journal articles commenting on them.  In recent cases of particular public interest heard before lower courts, the Judge's full sentencing remarks may be posted on the Judiciary website.

Law Report Cases

The Library has a large collection of printed case law reports on level 3 of the Hartley Library. However, it is much easier to locate case law via the online legal databases we subscribe to, and they will have additional commentaries and links.

Legal materials, especially reports and journals are often cited in an abbreviated form. The most useful online tool for finding out what the abbreviations stand for is the Cardiff  Index to Legal Abbreviations. The law databases will allow you to search for law reports using the abbreviated citation. 

You will also encounter Neutral Citations, e.g. EWHC and UKSC. These citations make it very easy to find the cases online, but have no direct relation to printed series of law reports; instead the abbreviation signifies the court.  For more on neutral citations, see the second document below.

Finding Case Law from jurisdictions outside the UK

The library holds some printed law reports from non-UK jurisdictions, (see Rough Guide below), but our law online databases cover much more.

There are separate guides for International, European, Canadian, Commonwealth and United States law but see below for some general information on finding law reports from other jurisdictions .

Both Westlaw and Lexis+ contain a wealth of reports from around the English-speaking world, including Ireland, the USA, Canada, Australia, India and South Africa .  Please note - these reports are not immediately accessible from the home pages. 

  • To access on Lexis+ use the 'International' tab
  • To access on Westlaw, use the 'Westlaw International' or 'Westlaw US' links under 'More resources'
  • To access on vLex Justis, use the 'Browse' tab and click 'All jurisdictions'
  • WorldLII This resource is freely available is a useful way of finding quality-assessed free sites for law materials from around the world. There are lists by country and by themes.

Links to all services mentioned on this page

Finding case law training videos

Finding case law on Westlaw

Finding case law on Lexis+