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

Purpose of this guide

This guide is intended for students and researchers studying the law of the countries of the common law or Anglo-American legal tradition at the University of Oxford, although students and researchers from any field may find it useful.

Use this guide to find out where to find the decisions, judgments, rulings or case law of common law jurisdictions online from databases and from reliable site on the free web such as those of the Legal Information Institutes.

Using this guide

Navigate through this guide by clicking on the pertinent tab you can see above this box (below the main title of this guide).

Note If you are interested in more than just the case law of these jurisdictions, please consult the LawBod guides below

Finding case law from common law & "mixed" jurisdictions online

This guide is primarily designed to help Oxford University law faculty and students (holders of a current Oxford Single Sign On username and password) find which subscription databases hold useful collections of law report series from countries in the Anglo-American or common law legal tradition.

For many of these jurisdictions, there is a specific freely available website allowing everyone access to transcripts of judgments  or historic report series. (These are thanks to the Free Access to Law Movement (FALM))This guide also acts as a portal to these sources.

Click the name of the jurisdiction (country) in which the case(s) you need was(were) decided, either via the tabs (dark blue) above or the hyperlinks in the box to the left. 

Knowing in which country the case was heard is not always as easy/obvious as it sounds!  Fortunately, jurisdiction is included on the results screen of searches in the  Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations  - so if you don't know/aren't sure, you could type in the abbreviation from your citation to see possible jurisdictions.

General points

Some common factors to take into account

  • Not every case that is heard in a law court is published in a law report series.

A court case may well achieve great coverage in the media - newspapers, TV & radio, Twitter and other social media - and yet NOT be published in a law report series. To be published in a law report series, the case must be of legal importance, that is develop the law in some way.

As a result of digital publishing, transcripts of  judgements (including both those later published in a report series and those left unreported) are becoming increasingly available, either via subscription databases or the network of Legal Information Institute websites.

  • (Medium or vendor) Neutral citation is increasingly used, especially since c2000

Neutral citation is a unique case identifier - it is not a reference to a page in a published series of law reports. It refers to the unedited transcript of the judgment. The neutral citation usually comes immediately after the party names.

Usual pattern is [party name] v [party name] [year of decision] [abbreviation identifying court which heard the case] [unique number for the case] - any subsequent numbers are to paragraph numbers in the transcript, often prefixed by "at."
If the case has subsequently been reported in one or more published law series, citation(s) to the law report(s) follow the neutral citation.

eg Geys v Société Générale, London Branch [2012] UKSC 63, [2013] AC 523 (SC)

You cannot use a neutral citation to find a case in a printed volume on the shelves of the Law Library, but it is a very useful way to find a case in an electronic database.  If the case had been subsequently picked up as important and published in a law report series, subscription databases will give you the parallel citation to the printed report series, and, if they hold that publication in full text, a link through to that report of the case.

Where a report of the case exists, read that in preference to reading the transcript.