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Finding Case Law


Case law databases Law reports in print Web links Search tips


Passwords for legal databases

Most databases are controlled by Athens authentication. You are automatically authenticated when you log in via Portal. Databases are listed on the Learning Resources tab in Portal.


Top tips
Databases will help you:

  • Find a particular case where you have the full case reference.

  • Find a case when you have incomplete details.

  • Find case law on a legal topic.

  • Find journal articles on particular cases.



Highly Recommended

LexisLibrary provides access to case law from England and Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland including:

The Law Reports (A.C., Q.B., Ch., Fam.) 1865-
All England Law Reports
Northern Ireland Law Reports 
Irish Reports
Unreported judgments from England and Wales, Northern Ireland  and the Republic of Ireland
US (State and Federal) case law
Commonwealth case law
European Community cases
European Court of Human Rights case law

Westlaw UK

Highly Recommended


Westlaw UK provides comprehensive access to the case law of England and Wales and case law from other jurisdictions including the full text of the following:

The Law Reports (A.C., Q.B., Ch., Fam.) 1865-
Sweet & Maxwell's specialised law reporting series
European Community case law
European Court of Human Rights case law
International Court of Justice case law 

US and International cases (select Services, then Westlaw International )
English Reports (nominate reports 1220-1865)

The case analysis feature includes details of the case history and journal articles about the case.  Red icons warn when a case has been overruled or reversed.

You should note that Westlaw does not provide the full text of Northern Ireland case law (use Lexis Library to find Northern Ireland cases).

All England Cases

All England Law Reports
are available via the LexisLibrary service which provides access to:
All England Law Reports (1936-) 
All England Reprint (1558-1935) and All England Reprint Extension (1861-1935)
All England European Cases (1995-)
All England Law Reporter

Official Transcripts
All England Annual Review 

Once you have logged into LexisLibrary you can restrict your search to All England case resources by clicking on the Sources tab.


Justis includes:

Weekly Law Reports
Daily Cases
- Case reports summaries produced by the Inc Council of Law Reporting from June 1999.
Celex  - the official database of the European Union. Use to access the European Court Reports.
English Reports

English reports

Reports of older cases in English law from 1220 to 1873.  Also known as the nominate reports because they are called by the names of the people who compiled them.




Transcripts of judgments from Smith Bernal, the official court reporters. 
Coverage includes recent judgments for England and Wales from the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, High Court, as well as judgments from Scotland and Northern Ireland. 

Current Legal Information

Current Legal Information (CLI) enables you to identify cases by subject term or party names.  Results displayed will show the case citation and a line or two about the case. You can then use Westlaw or LexisLibrary to obtain the full text. Alternatively CLI is also available to search directly on Westlaw with the added advantage that a hyperlink to the full text of a case will be provided where it is available in the Westlaw database.  The Case Citator in CLI will also outline the judicial history of a case - that is, it will indicate whether a case has been applied, considered, approved, distinguished, overruled etc since the case was decided. 

Bulletin of Northern Ireland Law


A comprehensive digest of Northern Ireland Law from 1996 with some links to full text material.  It includes Northern Ireland case law and UK case law relevant to Northern Ireland.  The Bulletin is also provides useful digests of selected Northern Ireland tribunal decisions including  Employment Appeals Tribunal,  Lands Tribunal and Planning Appeals Commission decisions.

Halsbury's Online

Halsbury's Laws of England is a major legal encyclopaedia available via the LexisLibrary service. Use it to find cases and legislation on a particular subject area.

Once you have logged into LexisLibrary you can restrict your search to Halsbury's Laws by selecting the Sources tab, then browsing to Halsbury's Laws on the A-Z sources list.

Planning Online

Planning Online is a website containing searchable databases with records of all planning applications in Northern Ireland since 1993.  Details of all planning cases and appeals are included from 1973.

Building Law Reports

Comprehensive collection of building case law from 1976 onwards.

Law Reports

Case law was traditionally published in print law reporting series.  Most are now available online - check the databases list above for details.

However the library does still subscribe to a number of print law reports.  Use the title search option in the library catalogue, narrowing your search to the Journals catalogue, to check for individual titles.

Here are examples of some of the major Law reports available in the library:

Web links



Major resource for free case law, including Northern Ireland cases and tribunal decisions.

Online Library Law Guide
More high quality case law web links.


Search tips

  • Can't understand the citation?
    Case law citations follow a standard format which you will soon get used to if you come across them regularly. 

    Airedale NHS Trust v Bland



    All ER


    Names of parties


    Vol no

    Law reports abbreviation

      Page no


  • Can't understand the legal abbreviation?
    Always use the Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations to check the law report abbreviation.  Don't be tempted to guess, especially if you are looking for the print version of the law reports in the library catalogue.

  • Where can I find Northern Ireland cases?
    Remember that LexisLibrary is the only database that covers Northern Ireland case law.  BAILII is a useful source of more recent Northern Ireland judgments and the Northern Ireland Court Service make a large number of judgments directly available on the web.

  • Is the case name spelt properly? 
    If the parties name(s) are not spelt correctly you may not find the case.  When you are using a database, try entering one of the parties' names, or part of the name if it is long.  Less is more! 

  • Has the case actually been reported?
    Only those cases which develop new points of law appear in law reports.  Just because a case is widely reported in the newspapers does not mean the judgment of the court will be published in a law reporting series or made available online.

  • Too many results?  Not sure which case is the right one?
    Why not try citation searching
    .  For example to find R v Brown [1993] 2 WLR 556, enter the case citation only (ie 1993 2 wlr 556 ) in the Case Citation search box in Westlaw or LexisLibrary to get to the correct case report.

  • Is the case very old? 
    The English Reports provide access to the most important early English cases from 1220-1865. The English Reports are available online through the Westlaw, Justis and HeinOnline databases.

  • Is the case very recent?
    Both Westlaw and LexisLibrary update their content on a daily basis so are good places to start. Westlaw Current Awareness service includes the Times Law Reports in its case law coverage.
    Courts now provide access to transcripts very quickly online.  For example Supreme Court judgments are available online once judgments are handed down. In Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Court Service is a useful source for recent judgments.  BAILII makes transcripts of judgments from a wide range of UK courts available online as quickly as possible.
    Some broadsheet newspapers provide Law Reports.  Both the Times and the Guardian newspapers (and their Law Reports) are available online in the Nexis UK database.

  • Are you having trouble finding cases on a topic? 
    Sometimes, especially when you are beginning your research into a particular law topic, it is best to start with legal textbooks to gain an overview of the subject. Use the library catalogue to search for
    cases and materials law textbooks.  Some examples are
    Allen, M., 2010. Elliott and Wood Cases and materials on criminal law. 10th ed.
    Steele, J., 2010. Tort law : text, cases, and materials. 2nd ed.
    McKendrick, E., 2010.  Contract law: text, cases and materials. 4th ed.
    Fenwick, H. and Phillipson, G, 2009. Text, cases & materials on public law & human rights. 3rd ed.

  • Is the case from a jurisdiction other than England and Wales ot Northern Ireland? 
    Remember that LexisLibrary is the only database that covers Northern Ireland and Irish case law.  Westlaw and LexisLibrary include the European Court Reports and European Human Rights reports in their coverage. However you can also use the Justis Celex database for access to the European Court Reports, and HUDOC, the official judgments website is excellent for the European Human Rights Reports.

  • Still stuck? 
    Remember that legal information can be notoriously difficult to find.  Always ask the Librarians for help (contact details below).  Or why not post a question on the Law Blog using the comments box?

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Last updated: 16/09/10
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