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Postgraduate Induction Session Ruth Bird 2009 Introduction to UK Common Law Legal Research & Resources.

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Presentation on theme: "Postgraduate Induction Session Ruth Bird 2009 Introduction to UK Common Law Legal Research & Resources."— Presentation transcript:

1 Postgraduate Induction Session Ruth Bird 2009 Introduction to UK Common Law Legal Research & Resources

2 Topics  The system of justice  Law Reports  Legislation  Other sources of information

3 The Judicial System: England & Wales  Criminal and civil cases are decided on adversarial, not inquisitorial, basis.  Ultimate source of law is statutes passed by Westminster or Scottish Parliaments.  Legal duty to comply with EC Law; courts must apply EC law where there is a conflict between the two.  EU Convention on Human Rights built into UK Law in 1998 and binding on public authorities and courts

4 The Judicial System: Nthern Ireland and Scotland  Nthern Ireland system broadly similar to E&W, with Lord Chancellor as highest officer & Scty of State responsible for criminal law and policing.  Scottish Parlt makes laws on matters devolved to it, with a Minister for Justice responsible for civil and criminal law and justice.

5 Court Structure Reference can be made to the European Court of Justice from any court in the system. The European Court of Human Rights enforces the European Convention on Human Rights.

6 Role of the Supreme Court The Supreme Court will:  be the final court of appeal for all United Kingdom civil cases, and criminal cases from England, Wales and Northern Ireland  hear appeals on arguable points of law of general public importance  concentrate on cases of the greatest public and constitutional importance  maintain and develop the role of the highest court in the United Kingdom as a leader in the common law world The Supreme Court will hear appeals from the following courts in each jurisdiction:  England and Wales  The Court of Appeal, Civil Division  The Court of Appeal, Criminal Division  (in some limited cases) the High Court  Scotland  The Court of Session  Northern Ireland  The Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland  (in some limited cases) the High Court

7 Law Reports – what and how…  Doctrine of Precedent  Court hierarchy  Structure of a law report  Which cases are reported  Which reports to use?  Citations & abbreviations

8 What is precedent?  Precedent - a court is bound by the decisions of a court above it and, usually by a court of equivalent standing. Superior courts are able to overrule decisions of lower courts, and sometimes their own decisions.  Law reporting was made more efficient when the Judicature Acts of 1873-1875 created a proper pyramid of authority, completed when the Appellate Jurisdiction Act 1876 made the House of Lords the final Court of Appeal. (The House of Lords has been replaced (Oct 2009) by the Supreme Court.)

9 What is a law report  A law report is a record of the judge’s reasons for a judgment in a dispute.  In England and Wales, only a proportion of cases decided by courts are reported  In most report series, the cases are selected by law report editors – not the courts  Layout of a report has consistent elements



12  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 which illustrate new applications of accepted principles

13 What are primary and secondary sources?  Primary sources are direct sources of law - eg, legislation, treaties, law reports (or case law), parliamentary papers, etc.  Secondary sources - opinions, commentaries, articles, discussions.

14 Which reports to use?  Sometimes a case located online will have parallel citations to different report series.  If there are several versions of a case in several report series, use and cite authorised or best versions of reports.  Authorised versions are written by barristers, read & signed off by judge(s).

15  The Law Reports, established 1865, are closest to a set of ‘official’ reports (practice direction at [1998] 1 WLR 825)  If a case is not reported there, then cite the All England LR or the Weekly LR; beyond that, no further series are identified

16 Citing law reports  Citation is the abbreviated reference to a case – in a civil case, the names of the Plaintiff and the Defendant, the year, abbreviation of law report, page number, eg: Mond v Hyde [1999] 1 QB 1097 -in a criminal case usually by the abbreviation R (for Rex or Regina) and the accused, eg: R v Rowe [2007] 2 Cr App 171  Square brackets are used when there is no running volume number  Round brackets are used when the date is not necessary for cite, eg Brasstington v Guthrie (1996) 64 TC 435

17 Neutral citation  Used for electronic version of law reports  Refers to year of decision, the court, a running number for the case, and then uses paragraph numbers instead of page numbers, eg: Morris v KLM [2001] EWCA Civ 790 at (3) This refers to paragraph 3 of the 790 th judgment of 2001 in the Civil Division of the Court of Appeal. R v Rowe [2007] EWCA Crim 635 This refers to the 635 th judgment of 2007 in the Criminal Division of the CA

18 How to identify abbreviations  Online at Cardiff site -  Raistrick, D. Index to legal citations and abbreviations. Cw UK R159c2  Card catalogue section of abbreviations in the law library (red drawer labels)  Index volumes of Halsbury’s Encyclopedia, and of The Digest  K.U. Leuven site –

19 Searching Case Law using paper  The Law Report Indexes (“Red Book”) - all citations to a case; search by subject; research judicial history.  All England Law Reports (“All ERs”) have an index by subject, case name, and list cases and legislation judicially considered.  Current Law Yearbook - summaries of significant cases, legislative details, words and phrases judicially considered. Also the Current Law Case Citator for judicial history

20 Searching Case Law - The Digest  Compendium of case law, covers the UK, Ireland, the Commonwealth & the EU, from medieval times to the present day.  Provides summary (“digest”) of cases organised by subject, with the citation to the full text report and the judicial history of each case  The Digest volumes are revised and reissued when necessary to take account of changes in law and practice.  It follows the same title classification and arrangement as Halsbury’s Laws of England.  Includes a cumulative supplement, consolidated table of cases, and a consolidated index



23 Why use The Digest?  Provides key case law in a subject area  Citations to law reports  Judicial history of cases  Useful source for tracing older case law  Is not available in electronic format Shelf location: Cw UK 150 E58a3

24 Searching Case Law - Halsbury’s Laws of England  Encyclopedia of law including authoritative commentary, statute and case law, analysis and background information  Arranged alphabetically by subject.  Updated by yearly supplement and monthly updating service  K 1




28 Searching & updating the law - Current Law  Case law and statutory developments from 1947-date  Digests cases from most series of law reports and quality newspapers  Current Law Case Citators give citations for cases and judicial history  Alphabetical table of cases and index to subjects Shelf location: Cw UK 200 C976c



31 Finding cases by name In books:  Current Law Case Citator  Law Report indexes – red indexes  The Digest  Halsbury’s – Table of Cases volumes On-line:  Key databases such as Lexis, Westlaw, Bailii

32 Finding cases by topic  The Digest  Halsbury’s Laws of England  Current Law  Lexis, Westlaw, Bailii

33 Legislation  Types of legislation  How statutes are made  Structure of an act  Commencement of an act  Citation  Statutory instruments

34 Types of Legislation  Primary legislation  Bills – precursors to Acts – Public, Private & Hybrid  Acts or Statutes – Public general, Local and Personal  Secondary or delegated legislation  Statutory instruments, (S.I.s) or Regulations  Other subsidiary legislation – Bye-laws, Orders, Codes of Practice etc

35 How an act (statute) is made Need for a law comes about from various sources – election promises, a specific event, law commission reports, Royal commissions and Public Inquiries Preparatory Stages  Consultation stage – organised by government dept. sponsoring the bill – (this is a Green Paper, which, once agreed, becomes a White paper – basis of bill)  Bill is drafted by parliamentary draftsmen within the relevant department.

36 How an act is made (ii) The House Of Commons  First Reading (letting Members know about the Bill)  Second Reading (explaining the purpose of Bill, questions)  Committee Stage (detailed examination by a Standing Committee)  Report Stage (further consideration & changes by whole House  Third Reading (Overall examination – can only pass or reject at this stage)

37 How an act is made (iii) The House Of Lords  First Reading  Second Reading  Committee Stage (usually a C’tee of the whole House  Report Stage (Consideration of Amendments)  Third Reading (Can still be amended in HoL) (If amended, Bill has to go back to Commons)  Royal Assent (granted via Letters Patent or, at end of a session, via a Commission)



40 Where to find…  Information on pre-legislative materials online:  Current Legal Information (CLI) – LRDI (‘grey papers’) database (Also on Westlaw)  Lawtel – Bills, Command Papers and News & Press databases  Internet – check Government websites and the Parliament website

41 Where to find bills  Information on Bills  Parliament website  Hansard  Weekly Information Bulletin  Sessional Information Digest  LexisLibrary  CLI  Lawtel  BLL list of bills received - (under UK& Ireland - ‘Parliamentary Bills’)

42 Where to find acts  Original text of Acts as passed:  Queen’s Printer’s copy  Office of Public Sector Information (OPSI) website  Current Law Statutes  Justis  Westlaw & LexisLibrary  Law Reports Statutes  Current Acts incorporating amendments:  Halsbury’s Statutes ( Cw UK 30 H196a4)  Statute Law database  LexisLibrary  Westlaw


44 Commencement / coming into force  Once a bill receives Royal Assent, it usually will come into force However:  Some Acts require a Commencement Order before they take effect – (use noter ups, or LexisLibrary to check)  Some Acts are never brought into force (eg. Easter Act 1928)

45 Citing legislation  Acts are numbered sequentially during the year as they receive Royal Assent  Acts are referred to either  by their short name or  by their Act or Chapter number – eg, Name of Act 2003 (c42) or c42, 2003  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)

46 Citing legislation (ii)  Acts (continued):  Local and Personal Acts are cited using Roman numerals, e.g.: British Railways (Liverpool Street Station) Act 1983 (cap. iv)  Private Acts are cited using Arabic numerals given in italics, e.g.: Hugh Small and Norma Small (Marriage Enabling) Act 1982 (cap. 10)

47 Citing Bills  Bills  A Bill is assigned a new number each time it is reprinted  References to Parliamentary Bills should include short title, Parliamentary Session in round brackets and Bill number, e.g.: Prevention of Terrorism HC Bill (2004 – 2005) 61 Prevention of Terrorism HL Bill (2004 – 2005) 34

48 Where to find… ..the status of a piece of legislation  Online: LexisLibrary Justis Lawtel Westlaw and CLI  In paper: Current Law Statute Citators Cw UK 20 C976 Halsbury’s Statutes –Is it in force? Cw UK 30 H196a4 Halsbury’s Statutory Instruments Cw UK 90 S5797.2

49 Example of Annotation in Westlaw- and exclamation mark next to the section:

50 Once section is selected, a warning note appears

51 Statutory instruments  Statutory instruments are also known as Regulations – over 3000 introduced each year.  SI’s are subordinate legislation, made by the government department responsible for an act  They cover the implementation aspects of an act, eg. Building Regulations, Road Rules

52 Citing Statutory Instruments  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  The Statute Law database lists the date of deployment of regulations.

53 Some other book resources  Legal journals – in paper, and online via OU e-journals, and on Lexis, Hein Online & Westlaw. (They have less standing than in European legal systems)  Loose-leaf services – often combine legislation with section commentary, and analyse related cases  Textbooks – specialist subject case books

54 Summary  Use the list of databases on the Law Library website  resources/databases resources/databases  Law Library website also contains self-paced tutorials   Refer to the Parliament website for background information and current status on England’s legislation 

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