Case Law

  • Why do I need to use law reports?

    Law reports are where cases are formally published. There are number of different series of law reports, and case may be reported in more than series.

    You can access law reports in print or via a law database.

    Not all cases are reported in the law reports - the majority of cases are actually unreported, especially if they do not make new law or change existing law.

    You may want to download the library's PDF guide to law reports and case law

  • Law Reports series

    There are three general series of reports (which are all also available online - see Law Reports in electronic format below). All law reports, unlike the official publication of legislation, are privately published.

    • The Law Reports - published since 1865 by the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting. This is the one series which has an 'official' status. It is divided into a number of sub-series. Each report is checked by the judge, giving it authority.
    • The Weekly Law Reports (W.L.R.)
    • All England Law Reports (All E.R.)

    There are numerous specialised series of law reports, which cover most subject areas. For example, the Criminal Appeal Reports (Cr.App.R.) and Family Law Reports (F.L.R.).

    Finding older cases (pre-1865)

    The following will help you find older cases:

    • All England Law Reports Reprint 1558-1935. Though selective, it provides brief summaries of cases.

    Please note: Some older law reports are kept in the library store and need to be requested in the Library's Help Zone.

    Most modern law reports are available electronically through databases. The databases below include many key cases and cover different series of Law Reports. There is no single database which contains all case law and all law reports, so it's a good idea to get familiar with more than one.


    You will need your usual Oxford Brookes student/staff number and password to access these databases.

    • LexisLibrary - a full-text database containing English, European and American law. It includes cases from many major series including the All England Law Reports. LexisLibrary also includes transcripts of unreported cases. Get help with LexisLibrary
    • Westlaw - provides case reports from 1220. Full-text cases include The Law Reports and several other major series, including Criminal Appeal Reports, Lloyd's Law Reports, and Common Market Law Reports. E.U. cases are also available. Get help with Westlaw.
    • Lawtel - provides digests of cases and links to some full text. It is a good source for recent cases. Additionally, it includes transcripts of unreported cases and contains Lawtel Human Rights, which provides full-text case law from the European Court of Human Rights.

    General tips for searching online

    • Legal databases provide electronic access to a range of legal information, including case law.
    • If you are looking for a specific case, you may need to look at more than one database to find it. Cases are published in law reports and there are many different series of law reports - some databases only contain certain series. There is no single database which contains all case law and all law reports
    • Remember that the case reference may be indexed differently on a database. For example, Bunge Corp. v Tradax Exprt S A. Many electronic resources will have used the full party name. In this instance, Bunge Corporation v Tradax Export SA.
    • If you have a long or complicated case name, try just using keywords from the reference. For example, bunge v tradax. Be aware that some databases may not recognise the v symbol; try instead bunge and tradax.

    Searching for a case when you have the case citation.

    • The case citation gives an abbreviation for the series of law reports where the case is published, as well as additional information such as the volume, year and page. If you want to know more about what the numbers and letters in a citation mean, have a look at the library's guide to law reports (PDF)
    • If you click on the journals tab in either LexisLibrary or Westlaw you'll see a search box labelled citation. You can copy and paste or type a citation in here. If you can't find a case by searching for the party names, this can be a better option. 
    • Remember that if you are searching a database for a citation and you cannot find it, try one of the other law databases.

    Searching for a case by party name or by keyword (subject search)

    • The easiest way to search for a case by party name or by keyword is to use one of the electronic databases, such as Westlaw, Lawtel or LexisLibrary.
    • You can find more information and videos about searching these databases on the LexisLibrary and Westlaw library webpages.
    • If you search by more than one party name, link the names with v or and (check the help on each database to check which link word to use).
    • If you want to search for more than one keyword:
      • use and to find where both words occur, for instance, terrorism and extradition will find cases which include both these words
      • use or to find where alternative terms occur, for example, boat or ship will find cases in which either word occurs.

    Many law journals publish reports, some of which are the only source for a case report in a particular area of law:

    • Law journals, such as the New Law Journal, publish reports of cases. They come out weekly so are a good source of current law. Also the Criminal Law Review publishes reports of cases. Often there will be a full report several months later in a Law Report series.
    • Professional journals such as the Estates Gazette publish reports on property law.
    • Newspapers, such as The Times, publish reports. LexisLibrary  contains the full text of the main national newspapers.