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Law and Criminology: Law Reports

Understanding citations: law reports

Cases that have been reported each have a citation which helps you find it.  Here's an example:

Johnson v Rea [1962] 1 QB 373.

Each standard citation has several elements which can be used while searching:   

Johnson v Rea = These are the party names;

 [1962] = the year the case was reported.  Be careful with dates - note that there is sometimes a gap between when the case was heard and the publication of the report, so a case heard in December 1961 may have the date [1962] if its report was published 3 months later. Square brackets mean that the date is essential for finding the report;

1 = the volume number.  This case will be found in volume 1 from 1962 of the report series which has the abbreviation 'QB';

QB = abbreviation of publication where the report was published.  Here, 'QB' means reports from the Queen's Bench division of the High Court.  This is published in the Queen's Bench series of the Law Reports.  You can check the meaning of abbreviations in legal citations at the Cardiff Index of Legal Abbreviations.  

373 = this is the page number where you'll find the report.

So, to find this report, first you need to find The Law Reports: Queen's Bench series of law reports.  Next, go to the volumes for 1962 and choose volume '1'.  Then, turn to page 373 to find the report: Johnson v Rea [1962] 1 QB 373​

This process is applicable for finding cases in hard-copy or by using electronic resources. 

Neutral citations were introduced in 2001 for judgments from every division of the High Court.  Neutral citations look similar to standard citations, but there are a few small differences.  The abbreviation in a neutral citation does not refer to a printed publication but rather the court in which the case was heard.  Neutral citations also included a reference number for that case, rather than a page number.  These citations are independent of any printed publication and so are called 'neutral citations'.

Here's an example: 

Fisher v English Nature [2004] EWCA Civ 663

Fisher v English Nature: the party names.  

[2004]: the year the case was heard.  Note here the difference between neutral and standard citation (where the date refers to the year when the case was reported).

EWCA Civ: abbreviation of the name of the court where the case was heard.  In this example, the abbreviation 'EWCA Civ' means England & Wales Court of Appeal, Civil Division. To find the meanings of other legal abbreviations, see the Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations.

663: this is a reference number.  In this example, this was case number 663 at the EWCA Civ in 2004. 

Westlaw & Lexis for law reports

These short videos give demonstrations on how to find legislation and case law in Lexis Library and Westlaw UK. 

Finding case law using Lexis:

Finding Primary Law using Westlaw:

Common abbreviations

To find the menaing of abbreviations used in legal citations, you can use the Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations.  A selection of frequently used abbreviations are listed below. 

The Law Reports

  • AC   Appeal Cases
  • Ch  Law Reports, Chancery Division
  • QB  Law Reports, Queen's Bench Division
  • KB   Law Reports, King's Bench Division
  • Fam Law Reports, Family Division
  • Law Reports, Probate Division

Other Publications

  • All ER All England Reports
  • BCLC Butterworths Company Law Cases
  • Cr App R  Criminal Appeal Reports
  • Cr App R (S) Criminal Appeal Reports Sentencing
  • FSR  Fleet Street Reports
  • ICR  Industrial Cases Reports
  • IRLR  Industrial Relations Law Reports
  • Lloyd's LR Lloyd's Law Reports
  • P & CR  Property, Planning and Compensation reports
  • SC   Session Cases (Scottish)
  • WLR Weekly Law Reports

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