Free Case Law Resources on the web

Descriptions of the key sources for free case law and legislation online with links to the most useful resources.

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This page was last updated on May 23rd.

The Supreme Court on YouTube!
The Supreme Court has launched its own YouTube channel showing videos of judgments being handed down. There are around 30 judgments on there now, from 2013, as well as some older ones from the latter part of 2012.

And whilst on the subject of the Supreme Court, there is an interesting history and analysis on the Guardian's Law Section here - The UK supreme court: an interactive history. The history starts in 1399 (the time of Henry Bollingbroke) and continues to the present day, with more recent periods described with a Summary of the key judgments emanating from that time.

BAILII (British and Irish Legal Information Institute) provides access to the most comprehensive free and up-to-date collection of British and Irish primary legal materials on the internet with 76 databases covering 7 jurisdictions. A user can pick individual courts, tribunals or collections of legislation to search or search across the whole seven jurisdictions in one go. Some of the courts covered are the UK Supreme Court (and archived House of Lords decisions), Court of Appeal of England and Wales; the Irish Supreme Court; the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal; Scottish Court of Session and High Court; the Privy Council, the Court of Justice of the European Communities (including Court of First Instance Decisions) and the European Court of Human Rights. There are also full-text legislation databases from Ireland, Northern Ireland, and the United Kingdom. Also on BAILII are Law Commission publications and tribunal decisions from tribunals such as the Employment Appeals Tribunal, the Immigration Appeals Tribunal and VAT & Duties Tribunals. In many instances BAILII has these documents available days before any other source. BAILII now offers RSS feeds for a variety of courts and other materials.

BAILII is legally constituted as a public trust incorporated in the UK. It is hosted in the UK and Ireland by the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, London and the Law Faculty, University College Cork. The databases on BAILII are derived from a number of sources. Some of the data comes from existing free sites. Most of the databases are based on published and unpublished CD-ROMs or rely upon direct and indirect feeds by relevant courts, government departments and other organisations. All of the data has been converted into a consistent format and a generalised set of search and hypertext facilities have been added.

Not case law but....
Legislation.gov.uk is the official home of the revised enacted UK legislation, 1267 to the present, together with appropriate sections for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The site brings together the legislative content currently held on the OPSI website and revised legislation from the Statute Law Database to provide a single legislation service that replaces the current services. The OPSI and SLD websites are in the process of being decommissioned with users re-directed to this new service. The site is managed by The National Archives, a new UK government department and an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice. There is a section for Frequently Asked Questions which describes, in particular, the various ways in which the archive is not yet up to date.

LexisWeb.co.uk is a relaunched version of the LexisNexis search engine that provides a great deal of free legal information and links into paid-for legal content from LexisNexis. It includes Acts and SI's (as enacted) and cases, which can be searched by practice area or by year. For digests or full transcripts, or consolidated legislation, you need a LexisNexis subscription. It is well designed and attractive, as well as easy to use, so it is a useful addition to the free legal resources available online although other resources, like BAILII and legislation.gov.uk provide similar material albeit in a different form.

The Supreme Court replaced the House of Lords as the highest court in the United Kingdom in October 2009. The Supreme Court and it’s 12 Justices are now explicitly separate from both Government and Parliament. The Court hears appeals on arguable points of law of the greatest public importance, for the whole of the United Kingdom in civil cases, and for England, Wales and Northern Ireland in criminal cases. Additionally, it hears cases on devolution matters under the Scotland Act 1998, the Northern Ireland Act 1988 and the Government of Wales Act 2006. This jurisdiction was transferred to the Supreme Court from the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. The Supreme Court sits in the former Middlesex Guildhall, on the western side of Parliament Square, which has been extensively remodelled to provide the facilities needed (which are very high tech incidentally). There is extensive information on the site on the history, role and processes of the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court sits in the former Middlesex Guildhall, on the western side of Parliament Square, which has been extensively remodelled to provide the facilities needed (which are very high tech incidentally). There is extensive information on the site on the history, role and processes of the Supreme Court. Decided Cases are published on the site in pdf form after the Judgments are handed down both in a "press summary" (effectively a case report) and in full. The judgments can be sorted in ascending or descending order of hand-down date, neutral citation, case ID or case name or can be searched for by ID number or by keywords. Judgments are also made available on BAILII.

The UK Supreme Court (blog) is written by members of Matrix Chambers and the Litigation Department of Olswang LLP. The introduction to the blog says "This blog is dedicated to the UK Supreme Court. The UK Supreme Court is the UK's highest court; its judgments bind lower courts and thus shape the development of English Law. Since 1399, the Law Lords, the judges of the most senior court in the country, have sat within Parliament. From October 2009, however, they have moved to an independent court in the Middlesex Guildhall. To mark this historic development, this blog has been set up to provide commentary on the UK Supreme Court and its judgments."

You can browse the material by:

  • Case Previews (Upcoming Hearings) indicating the most important cases on their way to the Supreme Court
  • New Judgments, providing a brief case report and linking to both the press summary and the full judgment
  • Case Comments, providing a more extensive analysis of recent judgments
  • Features, a series of occasional articles on key developments in current cases and developing case law.

    Access To Law is a gateway site from Inner Temple Library, providing annotated links to selected UK, Commonwealth and worldwide legal web sites. Over 1400 sites are currently included, intended to be of relevance primarily to practising lawyers in the UK. There is a particular emphasis on sites which contain substantive law (legislation, case reports, treaties, etc) or related materials (reports, codes of practice, official guidance, etc), or which will help the legal practitioner to find such information. Apart from a few subscription services, which are clearly indicated, all of the sites linked to are free. The content of the site is selected, annotated and updated by an experienced team of information professionals on the staff of the Inner Temple Library in London. The Inner Temple Library is one of the four Inns of Court libraries, which serve barristers, judges and bar students in England and Wales.

    Current Awareness from the Inner Temple Library provides up-to-date information on new case law, changes in legislation and legal news related. The content is selected and updated daily by information professionals on the staff of the Inner Temple Library in London. Amongst other things, it provides a very user friendly (but authoritative) summary of key cases each day. A full list of sources is provided and the information is fully categorised. You can subscribe with RSS and get alerts every day. You can also receive "normal" email alerts, follow the blog on Twitter, get the Widget or follow on Facebook.

    (Not free online but related to online case law)
    Transcripts of Judicial Proceedings in England and Wales: a Guide to Sources comes from Inner Temple Library, compiled by Sally Mclaren. The guide is intended primarily for libraries and information service staff who may need to obtain, or assist others to obtain, transcripts of the proceedings of courts and tribunals in England and Wales. The guide is provided as a pdf document at modest costs.

    House of Lords Judgments are available since 1996 as an archive, sorted by title within year. These only go up to July 2009, at which point the Supreme Court took over the functions. The judgments are available in html form and also, since 2005, in pdf form as well. To search these, you have to use the general Parliament searching process.

    The Judicial Committee of The Privy Council (JCPC) is the court of final appeal for the UK overseas territories and Crown dependencies, and for those Commonwealth countries that have retained the appeal to Her Majesty in Council or, in the case of Republics, to the Judicial Committee. The Judicial Committee moved to the Supreme Court Building in Parliament Square in August 2009. Decided cases since October 2009 are shown on this site in a similar format to the Supreme Court Decided Cases. Earlier decisions can be found on the previous web site here. (The Privy Council itself has not moved to the Supreme Court building - only the Judicial part).

    Working with BAILII - Laurie West-Knights QC
    Headnotes on all High Court and above cases (except first instance Admin and Family) coming out of BAILII are now being provided by Laurie West-Knights QC, head of the Hailsham Chambers Commercial Group. A leading commercial silk, in wider legal circles Laurie is better known for being one of the three founding trustees of British and Irish Legal Information Institute (BAILII), to provide "free access to the law" as far as is practicable. Now, he has been working with BAILII to provide headnotes on these cases since July 2010 at the end of every week - another significant, step forward. There are also extensive notes on his site on Vendor Neutral Citation.

    LawCite comes from the family of Legal Information Institutes (LIIs) of which BAILII is one. It is an automatically-generated international legal case citator, used to locate judgments and to see how these have been subsequently dealt with and commented upon – perhaps throughout the world. Since LawCite was developed by the LIIs, it has a particularly international element. Over 15,000 law report and journal series are currently indexed with nearly 4 million cases and law journal articles in the database from around the world. The current emphasis is on common law countries, but this is being gradually extended to include civil law jurisdictions as well. It is automatically maintained (i.e. maintained by computer with no editorial involvement) and so is always up to date. New cases are generally available within 24 hours of publication on any collaborating LII and are then available via WorldLII.

    JustCite is a UK based multi-source legal search engine and citator service from independent publisher Justis that helps you find leading authorities and establish the current status of the law. JustCite's legally-trained editors mark up the relationships between documents, so you can see how a case has been subsequently treated, which cases were cited in judgment, or how a piece of legislation has been amended and interpreted in the courts. When you have found a document you want to read, JustCite shows you where it exists on the legal web, whether on free sites like Bailii, or subscription services such as LexisNexis and Westlaw. The JustCite "Precedent Map" is a new interactive tool for visualising and navigating through case law relationships.
    JustCite is a subscription service but the search functionality is free.

    Scottish Courts Web Site provides many recent Court Opinions of importance since 1998. As it says on the site: "This site provides an access point to information relating to all civil and criminal courts within Scotland, including the Court of Session, the High Court of Justiciary, the Sheriff Courts and a number of other courts, commissions and tribunals as well the District Courts. The information includes location details, contact numbers, advice and details of recent significant judgments. The site is regularly updated with any changes and other relevant information."

    Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service provides selected Judgments and Practice Directions since 1999 on the site in 6 months "chunks".

    ICLR have changed their url and the design of their website - it is harder now to find the free bits! Here is an up to date pointer.
    The Incorporated Council of Law Reporting (ICLR) is a legal charity that was set up in 1865. They publish law reports of the judicial decisions of the Superior and Appellate Courts in England and Wales. Most of their products are only provided by subscription but they do provide a free search process for their Case Summaries from 2009 onward here (take the case summaries option). You can sort the results by case name, publication reference, neutral citation or date of judgment by clicking on the relevant field header. This is a new version of the previous free service called Weekly Law Reports Daily, and before that, Daily Law Notes. A subscription is required for a wider search going back to 1865 or for the full case reports.

    The Law Society Gazette provides recent cases reports provided by LexisNexis covering a period of approximately the last 3 weeks. You can reach these directly from www.lawgazette.co.uk/lawreports or via the In Practice section www.lawgazette.co.uk/inpractice.

    (The other journals and newspapers do not seem to have free law reports any more, but require a subscription. If I have missed something, please tell me!).

    The Scottish Council of Law Reporting is now providing a database of important Scottish cases from 1873 to 2007, as an open access resource. They have previously provided the law-teaching universities in Scotland with a CD-ROM of this material as a learning aid to their students but in this new form, the archive is available to everyone. The cases, specially elected by leading academics, cover the full range of legal subjects. It is the Council’s intention to expand this selection by adding new cases each year. The archive is available here. The council has teamed up with Justis to run the archive using their award-winning search engine and interface JustCite (see above for more on this).

    The Scottish Council of Law Reporting (SCLR) is a “not for profit” charitable company limited by guarantee, established by the Scottish legal profession to manage publication of Session Cases and other materials intended to help promote the best practice of Scots law. The Council makes its publications available to as wide an audience as possible, at as low a cost as possible. Now the SCLR is bringing this admirable aim into the internet age! It has commissioned a series of five linked short films about law reporting in Scotland and the place of law reports in Scottish legal practice and made these available on You Tube. The celebrated case of Donoghue v. Stevenson provides a useful theme as the role of precedent in the work of lawyers and the courts is explained. The films are presented as a free educational resource, especially useful for those seeking to understand the role of law reports as a primary source of law. The five films are:

  • Donoghue v. Stevenson: The History of Law Reporting
  • The Law of Judges: Precedent and the Criteria for the Reporting of Cases
  • Anatomy of the Law: The Authority, Authorship and Arrangement of Session Cases
  • In the Case Of: Using the Reports
  • Books and Bytes: Accessing the Reports
    They are wonderful! Suitable (for example) for sixth form students, students of law (in the early stages) and the general public (if interested). I learnt a lot! And the standard of the films is very high - comparable to well produced TV programmes. The films would be just as useful to non-Scottish students, incidentally, as a general introduction to the role and use of precedent, and the role of court reporting in general.

    CaseChart produces a visual representation of a complex case, using charts, timelines, and interjurisdictional flow diagrams – all multi layered – for presentation to clients, colleagues, tribunals and judges. The process makes it possible to communicate complex ideas and facts in a straightforward way. The CaseChart service comprises advice, analysis, and ultimately presentation in the way best suited to target audience, and goal. The initial consultation would normally be free of charge. The system has been developed by Andrew Henley, a leading criminal barrister with over 18 years of experience in fact analysis, case preparation and case management.

    CaseCheck is an extensive free database of court cases and case law from the Supreme Court, English & Welsh Courts, Scottish Courts and European courts. As well as case law it features legal articles, legal jobs, video interviews and case law search functionality. The site itself contains links to thousands of court cases directly from their associated case summaries and all case law is contained within a clearly defined and logical structure.

    CaseCheck - the UK's no 1 free case law resource

    Tribunals

    The Tribunals Service was created in April 2006, as an Executive Agency of the Ministry of Justice. The mission of the new service is to establish, for the first time, a unified administration for the tribunals system. A major reorganisation of tribunals took place in 2007. Most tribunals have been combined into the so called First–tier Tribunal. The Upper Tribunal has been created to deal with appeals from, and enforcement of, decisions of the First-tier Tribunal. The First–tier Tribunal is currently divided into six chambers:
    •General Regulatory Chamber
    •Social Entitlement Chamber
    •Health, Education and Social Care Chamber
    •War Pensions and Armed Forces Compensation Chamber
    •Tax Chamber
    •The Immigration and Asylum Chamber.
    A full list of tribuals as shaped by this categorisation with links to the particular web sites can be found here and there is also an A-Z list here. Generally, each tribunal has its own decisions on its own web site.

    Care Standards Tribunal relates to the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults under various Childrens Acts and related legislation. There are decisions on the site.

    Here are just a few of the tribunals' sites:

    Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) is a specialist judicial body with cross-disciplinary expertise in law, economics, business and accountancy. Under United Kingdom law, the function of the CAT is to hear and decide appeals and other applications or claims involving competition or economic regulatory issues. It came into force on 1 April 2003.

    The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) is designed to consider appeals from decisions made by Employment Tribunals. An appeal must be on a point of law, i.e. it must identify flaws in the legal reasoning of the original decision. They will not normally re–examine issues of fact. EAT is a 'court of record' i.e. its judgments set precedents and may be used in support of Employment Tribunal claims. The database contains all judgments transcribed from full hearings since 1999 plus selected judgments from other hearings. There is also a section for latest judgments (from the last month). EAT judgments are available on this website as Microsoft Word files or on the BAILII website in html format.

    Immigration Services Tribunal is part of the Court Service, an executive agency of the Department for Constitutional Affairs. The site provides information on how to appeal and procedures generally. There is also a database of decisions.

    Lands Tribunal Website is designed to assist claimants and their representatives. It includes information on the functions and powers of the Lands Tribunal, an explanation of our rules and procedures and a searchable database of decisions. The Lands Tribunal was established by the Lands Tribunal Act 1949 to determine questions of disputed compensation arising out of the compulsory acquisition of land; to decide rating appeals; to exercise jurisdiction under section 84 of the Law of Property Act 1925 (discharge and modification of restrictive covenants); and to act as arbitrator under references by consent. Under the 1949 Act other jurisdictions may be added, and a number have been since the Tribunal came into existence on 1 January 1950. The Tribunal’s jurisdiction is exercised in England and Wales.

    Pensions Appeal Tribunals hear appeals from ex-servicemen or women who have had their claims for a War Pension rejected by the Secretary of State for Defence. The jurisdiction of the Tribunals only includes England & Wales - Scotland and Northern Ireland have separate Tribunals. The Pensions Appeal Tribunals are independent of the Veterans Agency. The Tribunals have been set up in their present form since 1943, although they have been in existence as part of the Lord Chancellor's responsibility since the War Pensions Act 1919. Selected Decisions are due to go on the site during April 2005.

    Social Security and Child Support Commissioners, the specialised part of the Judiciary appointed to determine appeals on law under the Social Security and Child Support Acts. Decisions since 1972 are on the site.

    Other Sources

    One Crown Office Row's Human Rights Update is a database of 1,000 reports and commentaries on human rights dating back to 1998 with a weekly update co-ordinated by Chambers Academic Rosalind English. The cases are taken from domestic courts and the Strasbourg court involving human rights points that demonstrate the impact of the European Convention on domestic law and also explores the practical impact of these cases for practitioners. There is a good search engine and it is possible to sign up for a weekly update by email. As well as being a resource for practitioners, it will be widely used by students and less experienced lawyers, and possibly also members of the public, since it includes a practical guide to the Convention and the Act; what are "Incorporated Rights", "Procedures and Remedies" and so on. There is now also a UK Human Rights Blog written by members of 1 Crown Office Row, for more immediate comment and news.

    Competition Commission is an independent public body established by the Competition Act 1998. The Commission replaced the Monopolies and Mergers Commission ("MMC") on 1 April 1999. The Commission has taken on the former MMC role of carrying out inquiries into matters referred to it by the other UK competition authorities concerning monopolies, mergers and the economic regulation of utility companies.

    The Law Society Gazette provides its Law Reports on the site in the "In Practice" section although it does not seem to be possible to search for past reports.

    David Swarbrick, now a consultant to Wrigley Claydon, provides an index of case reports from 1991 to 1999 (take the "Law-index" link"). This can be searched by statute, area of law, date and by court. There is now also a "professional" (and charged) version called Lawindexpro with additional features such as links to 35,000 full text decisions and 12,000 head-notes. However, the basic free area is still available in a limited form.

    Law of Contract provides free case law summaries of popular recent court cases in England and Europe covering property case law, contract, english, liability, police case law, company, criminal, tort, administrative, european, civil, defamation, negligence, sports and other popular topics. The reports are organised with a large number of tags, all of which can be made into an RSS feed (just click on a tag and click ‘Feed Me’ for the feed). The site is compiled by Jen Wiss who is a Fellow of the Institute of Legal Executives specialising in Property, Company and Civil litigation, and a Commissioners for Oaths. She has a first class honours degree in law (LL.B) and a Diploma in English Law.

    Other law reports and news services covering particular areas of law, free or reasonably priced, include the following:

    • Family Law Newswatch is a site from Jordans which provides up to date news, cases and legislation. There are also opinions, interviews and a calendar, and you can sign up for an RSS feed. This is really a free "taster" to the many Jordans online services in Family Law and you can sign up for a free trial from the Online Services page.
    • Family Law Week covers developments in divorce, ancillary relief, private child law, public child law and cohabitation. You have to register, but it is free. The site provides news, articles and cases as well as legislation, with details of all new SIs, together with a link to the full text of the legislation; progress of Bills is tracked.
    • Malcolm Johnson & Co, of Surbiton, Surrey, is a firm of specialist child abuse solicitors. They provide over 300 pages of legal information on their site, made up of case reports and synopses that they have written as well as notes on relevant statutes, both historical and current. They are developing the statute and case law database as a real resource for students and practitioners working in this difficult area.
    • Consumer Crime Cases (CCC) is a database of several hundred digests of appeal cases relating to Trading Standards prosecutions. The site covers specialist points of law peculiar to consumer and other regulatory law and, in addition, with precedents on legal issues such as abuse of process or duplicity which derive from the more general field of criminal law. The case reports come from Victor Smith a former head of the legal service at Northamptonshire County Council. There is a (modest) charge to access the reports, either for an individual or for a corporate account.
    • Employment Cases Update from Bath Publishing, provides free access to the full text of key employment law cases as they are published, from the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, High Court and EAT, starting from January 2010. Many of the cases have been sourced from existing free resources but are convenient to find in one place, rather than having to search across these other sources. The text is all free to view and users can also sign up for a free weekly newsletter or a RSS feed. Associated with the case reports is a modestly priced CPD facility.
    • Employment Cases old and new from emplaw includes summaries of over 2,500 employment law related cases, including all cases reported in the ICR and IRLR series since January 2000. In addition a weekly emplaw e-PSL e-mail newsletter includes summaries of all new employment law related judgments which have appeared on the web in the previous week. All emplaw case summaries are cross referenced to relevant emplaw commentary and all have links to the full text judgments. All emplaw material is fully searchable. Basic versions are provided free of charge and a free downloadable iPad app version is currently in course of preparation. A subscription is required for access to full content, starting at just £10 + VAT for 24 hours access.
    • Michael J L Turner provides an extensive list of cases relating to the Computer Misuse Act 1990. He gives a brief summary of each case and a link to a free source of information, if available. Michael Turner is an experienced forensic computer examiner, a Registered Forensic Practitioner in the speciality of Computer Examination: Data Examination and an established and experienced independent expert witness on computer evidence.
    • Mental Health Law Online is an internet resource on mental health law in England & Wales, primarily for mental health practitioners, to which anyone can contribute. The site has been set up by a mental health solicitor. There are three sections to this website:
      i) Caselaw; regularly updated commentaries on the cases, with links to the full text judgments on Bailii. (Bailii contains nearly every judgment, but no specific commentary.)
      ii) Legislation; The full text of, and a simple and up-to-date commentary on, the Mental Health Act 1983, the Mental Capacity Act 2005, and related legislation.
      iii) General articles to explain the concepts and terminology used in the caselaw and legislation sections and practical guidance for lawyers.
    • Morgans are shipping specialists in London and they provide a "Shipping Case Index" with 1,000 selected English Court Decisions which can be searched by keyword or category.
    • 5RB (5 Raymond Buildings) provide 300 case reports covering cases in media and entertainment law, many of which have involved members of chambers. You can register on the site for email briefings with monthly round-ups of the key issues and new cases covered on the site.
    • Gray's Inn Chambers offers a tax case reporting service with online digests of all recent tax and VAT cases in which members of chambers have appeared, with full transcripts in some cases (in pdf format). There are also comprehensive links to other tax cases.

    elawstudent.com is a small company developing law courses and in particular, so far, an 'A' Level Law software programme (GCSE law and the core subjects for the first year of the LLB degree will follow later in the year). In the meantime, barrister Richard Priestley is making his database of significant edited transcripts of case judgments available to anyone interested. Take the Library option (you have to register). You can then search by keyword (e.g. negligence) or by name or part of name. I asked how the cases were chosen. Richard said "I choose the cases in accordance with the syllabi of AQA and OCR, who are the only two examining boards offering AS/A LEVEL LAW. Unfortunately, the areas covered are huge: crime, contract, tort, consumer protection, human rights and els. Frankly, in terms of depth, I would equate the course with a first-year LL.B."

    Historical resources
    English Reports are a large collection of historic judgments dating from 1220-1873, based on data provided by Justis (apparently 124882 of these). The reports are in PDF but are full text searchable - an amazing historical resource.

    The Proceedings of the Old Bailey is "A fully searchable online edition of the largest body of texts detailing the lives of non-elite people ever published, containing accounts of over 100,000 criminal trials held at London's central criminal court." it is coming online in stages, with the first stage, 22,000 trials, from December 1714 to December 1759, available now. "The Proceedings" is the name of the original published version. Here is what it says about these: "The Proceedings contain accounts of trials which took place at the Old Bailey. The crimes tried were mostly felonies (predominantly theft), but also include some of the most serious misdemeanours. The first published collection of trials at the Old Bailey dates from 1674, and from 1678 accounts of the trials at each session (meeting of the Court) at the Old Bailey were regularly published. Inexpensive, and targeted initially at a popular rather than a legal audience, the Proceedings were produced shortly after the conclusion of each sessions and were a commercial success. With few exceptions, this periodical was regularly published each time the sessions met (eight times a year) for 160 years. In 1834 it changed its name, but publication continued until 1913." The site is beautifully prepared, with the full text available as well as digital images of the original reports. There are also some pictures from legal material of the time together with an extensive Introduction. There is a particular section for schools, with the site obviously seen as material for school projects. The project is funded by various grants so that access can be free.


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