Finding English Cases, Statutes, and Secondary Sources
Note: Call numbers beginning KD... are shelved in the Foreign Law Room, LC-B2V. The locations for other call numbers are provided
For electronic sources and more comprehensive research guides, please go to the Guide to Foreign and International Legal Databases-England/United Kingdom. For Indexes, please consult Indexes/Databases.
The English system is a precedent-based common law system functioning within a body of reported case law. The court system of modern England is not very different from the U.S. system, except that it lacks the complications created by federalism. In England civil actions are tried in one of the three divisions of the High Court (Queen's Bench, Chancery, or Family) or in lower courts with review by the Court of Appeal and from there by the House of Lords. Criminal trials are conducted in a Crown Court. Scotland has its own court system with the final appeal to the House of Lords in civil matters only.
All old reports (almost 100,000 cases) have been reprinted in The English Reports: Full reprint (176 volumes; 1378-1865). KD270 1220 .E53x 1900r
Law Reports, which started in 1865, contains decisions of the English superior courts in four series: Appeal Cases, Chancery Division, Queen's or King's Bench Division, and Family Division. Law Reports cases include summaries of counsel's arguments. KD275.4 1866
The cases are published first in a separate series, the Weekly Law Reports (1953-date),but without the official pagination because the counsel arguments have to be added. KD282 1953
Unofficial commercial (private) reports: Law Journal Reports, Law Times Reports (KD288.A34), and the Times Law Reports have all ceased. They are continued by All England Law Reports (1936- date). The indexes and editorial headnotes are very helpful. KD288 .A6x
There are also specialized subject reporters such as:
Criminal Appeal Reports NYUL KN20 5C54 and
Lloyds Law Reports KD 1815 A.2 L57.
For Ireland and Scotland there are:
Northern Ireland Law Reports KDE55 .N67x
Scots Law Times KDC116 .S43x
Irish Reports KDK 63 1894 A2 I 757
The citation of cases is different from the U.S. format. Reports are designated by year, by volume number within the year, and then the page.
Example:  2 All E.R. 456 is volume 2 for 1985, at page 456.
Digests for Finding Cases by Subject
The Digest: Annotated British, Commonwealth and European Cases (1981-). Published 1919-1981 under title: English and Empire Digest with complete and exhaustive annotations. Comprehensive digest of English cases from earliest reported cases to the present. Scottish, Irish, and Commonwealth cases are included. Parallel citation to cases are to be found here. The case summaries are arranged according to the same topic outline as Halsbury's Laws of England, the publisher's legal encyclopedia. Cases receive a paragraph number, with cases on the same topic arranged chronologically. The case summary is followed by brief annotations citing cases in which the case was considered. The set is updated by an annual Cumulative Supplement that updates the annotations to cases in the main volumes, summarizes new cases, and by Continuation Volumes. The Digest has a Consolidated Index and a Consolidated Table of Cases. KD296 .E5x
Current Law tracks English law by subject and by citation. This monthly periodical tracks legal developments by digesting cases, legislation, and secondary sources. KD135 .C8x
At the end of the year the material in Current Law is cumulated in the Current Law Year Book. KD296 .C82 The most important feature is the Case Citator which lists both newly digested decisions and older cases cited in recent decisions. Unlike the American Shepards citations, it is arranged alphabetically by case name. At the end of the year it is cumulated into the Current Law Case Citator. KD296 .C843
Law Reports Indexes for Finding and Updating Cases
• Law Reports Current Index KD282 .L39x
• Law Reports Digest (1950-) KD284 .D4x 1882, is continued by a Consolidated Index to cases published in the Law Reports and other report series. KD 285. I63x
• Revised Reports and All England Law Reports Reprint, provide indexes and table of cases.
See also Lexis; Westlaw, Lawtel UK (IP access), Butterworths Direct (Full text of statutes, laws, and jurisprudence. Fee based database. The library doesn't have a subscription. See the library's collection policy.)
In England (UK) there are not codes in the American or in the civil law sense. If something is called a code is most likely a compiled collection of statutes arranged alphabetically. British statutes are published in both chronological order and in subject compilations of statutes in force. There is no counterpart to the United States Code, in which statutes in force are assigned title and section numbers. Statutes are identified by their original title and date of enactment.
The earliest statutes date from the thirteenth century. The authoritative edition of these earliest statutes is called Statutes of the Realm (1225-1713). (COHEN RARE)
NYUL KB-A 33 R3 1215- 1714
Later, the early statutes were published under the name of Statutes at Large. KD129 1807
Today, the first source of a current official act is the Official Queen's Printer copy published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office (HMSO). The slip law is available after receiving the Royal Assent.
Since 1831, Public General Acts and Measures (compiling the slip laws and corresponding to the U.S. Statute at Large) have been published every year in chronological order. KD142.3. G74
An unofficial version is published by the Law Report's series.
Statutes in Force
Three editions of the Statutes Revised were published between 1870 and 1950, reprinting all Public Acts in force at the date of publication. They have been replaced by Statutes in Force: Official Revised Edition which began in 1972. NYUL KB-A 31 1972 [microform]
Subject access to the Statutes in Force is provided by the Index to the Statutes (HMSO, annual) (1235 to date). KD142.4 .I53x
Today, the most frequently used source of the English statutes is Halsbury's Statutes of England and Wales (Butterworths), an unofficial compilation of the statutes in force, including treaties and secondary legislation of the EU. The statutes are arranged in 143 alphabetical titles representing broad subject categories, with annotations following each section. The set is updated by annual cumulative supplements and two looseleaf volumes "Current Statutes Service" . Three times a year the Noter-Up Service provides references to developments since the most recent annual supplements. KD135 .H3x 1985
A table of statutes is published as a separate booklet. An annual volume called Is it in Force? provides the commencement dates of all statutes passed in the most recent 25 years. KD142.6 .I8
To update a statute and see its current status one must use the Cumulative Supplement and the Noter-up Service for Halsbury's Statutes (KD135 .H3x 1985 ) or other tools to be described.
Other Statutory Sources
Current Law Statutes Annotated (Sweet & Maxwell) (1947-) Current Awareness KD135 .C8x
Scottish Current Law Statutes (1948-date) KDC140 .C84x
Indexes to Statutes
Index to the Statutes, 1235 to date. Subject index to public acts in force. KDK44 .I74x
Halsbury's regularly updates KD135 .H3x 1985
Lexis; Westlaw, Lawtel UK, Butterworths Direct
The Chronological Table of the Statutes (HMSO, annual). KD142.3 .G74
The Current Law Statute Citator. This component of the current law service lists all statutes back to 1235, which have been affected since 1947. KD135 .C8x.
Relevant case law can be found through the indexes accompanying the Law Reports (KD282 .L39x) and the All England Law Reports (KD288 .A64x), as both include alphabetical tables of statutes judicially considered.
Current Law Statute Citator updated by the Monthly Current Law KD135 .C8x
Current Law Statute Citator And Index (Updated by the Current law citator)
Current Law Statute Citator Statutory Instrument Citator (Current law legislation citators) KD141 .C865
Citation: It is legal to cite an act by short title and year only. The regnal year and chapter are usually added in legal writing, especially for statutes passed prior to 1963.
English administrative regulations are known as Statutory Instruments or Statutory Rules and Orders. Instruments are numbered serially by year. KD166 .G74x
The Table of Government Orders (HMSO, annual) lists numerically rules and orders, and statutory instruments since 1671. KD171 .S83x
The Index to Government Orders (HMSO) is a subject index to orders and rules. The volumes are supplemented by a monthly List of Statutory Instruments. KD170 .L77x
Halsbury's Statutory Instruments
The Consolidated Index is arranged by subject in a manner similar to Halsbury's Statutes. (1951-date) Includes full text of summaries of statutory instruments in force. KD173 .H3x 1986
• Legal periodicals are indexed in Index to Legal Periodicals, Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals, and the Current Law Index/Legal Resource Index (Info Trac). They are to be found at Indexes/Databases. Se also Legal Resource Index in Westlaw. For England only there is also Current Legal Information by Sweet and Maxwell, a fee-based resource containing Legal Journals Index, Financial Journals Index and CLI Current Law Service, Current Law Cases, BADGER Grey Paper Index, Current Law Case Citator, Current Law Legislation Citator and Inns of Court Catalogues. The library doesn't have a subscription. See the library's collection policy.
• Encyclopedias: The best known is Halsbury's Laws of England covering statutory and case law. KD310 .H33x 1931
Dictionaries, directories, bibliographies and treatises have also to be taken into consideration.
More Guidance in Researching this Topic
"English and Commonwealth Materials," chap. 16, in Morris L. Cohen, Robert C. Berring, Kent C. Olson , How to Find the Law, 9th edition. St. Paul, Minn. : West, 1989.
Reserve KF240 .C538 1989
Sarah Carter, Guide to the UK Legal System.
Guy Holborn, Butterworths Legal Research Guide.
Reference KD392 .H65 1993
John Jeffries and Christine Miskin, Legal Research in England and Wales. Rodmer Clough, Blackshawhead, West Yorkshire [England] : Legal Information Resources Limited, 1990. NYUL K20 J33 L3
Guy Holborn, Butterworths Legal Research Guide. London ; Boston : Butterworths, 1993 KD392 .H65 1993
Thomas Reynold, Foreign Law : Current Sources of Codes and Basic Legislation in Jurisdictions of the World. Littleton, Colo. : F.B. Rothman, 1989- Reserve K38 .R49 1989 Found also in electronic format.
Gary Slapper and David Kelly, The English legal system: London ; Portland, Or. : Cavendish, 2003 KD661 .S53 2003
David Stott, Legal Research. London : Cavendish Pub., 1999
Reference KD392 .S76x 1999
Richard Ward, Walker & Walker's English Legal System. London : Butterworths, 1998. Reference KD7100 .W3x 1998
This page was updated August 12, 2010