Skip to main content

Case law: online resources for common law countries: Neutral citation

Citation style

Neutral citation: general principals

Many common law jurisdictions have adopted a case numbering system called (media) neutral citation.

Some common factors to take into account

  • (Media) Neutral citation is likely to appear in citations to cases heard from late 1990s onwards

The neutral citation (where one exists for the case) comes immediately after the names of the parties.
The usual pattern for a neutral citation is (the use of ; is just to make sections clear - they aren't part of the citation style!)

  •         [year] ; abbreviation for jurisdiction/court which decided case ;  unique number for the case ; abbreviation for specific division of court

             egs from England    Jones v Kaney [2010] EWHC 61 (QB) Jones v Kaney [2011] UKSC 13
             egs from Australia  Wotton v Queensland [2012] HCA 2 ; Rafferty v Madgwicks [2012] FCAFC 37 ;  Forrester v Clarke [2012] WASC 3

Neutral citation is a unique case identifier - it is not a reference to a page in a published series.  You cannot use the abbreviation in a neutral citation to find a printed volume of reports in the library.

You can use neutral citation to find a case in an electronic database. The search results will often show that the case was subsequently reported in a published series, and give the citation to the printed volume. Where a case has been reported, read this report of the case rather than the transcript/unreported version.

  • Citation(s) to the case in (a) published law report(s) come after the neutral citation (if the case has one)

    eg Rubin v Eurofinance SA [2012] UKSC 46; [2013] 1 A.C. 236; [2012] 3 W.L.R. 1019; [2013] 1 All E.R. 521; [2013] 1 All E.R. (Comm) 513; [2013] Bus. L.R. 1; [2012] 2 Lloyd's Rep. 615; [2013] B.C.C. 1; [2012] 2 B.C.L.C. 682; [2012] B.P.I.R. 1204

Important/leading cases can be reported in more than one series of reports. The example above was heard in the UK Supreme Court and was reported by 9 different law report series. Don't worry -  you don't have to read the report in them all!  Wherever possible read the report of the case in the law report series which comes immediately after any neutral citation or the parties' names. Parallel citations are listed hierarchically  with the most authoritative report series given first.

The law report series is usually just identified by an abbreviation. The free online Cardiff Index (linked below) is very useful way to discover what the abbreviations mean - or if you are in the Law Library you can always aske a librarian!