13 Law and legal references
13.4 Citing cases
13.4.1 General principles
Where a specific page within a report is referred to, the initial page number should be followed by a comma plus the specific page number, or no comma and ‘at’ followed by the specific page number: the decision is a matter of personal choice but should be applied consistently throughout a particular work:
In reports a date is in square brackets if it is essential for finding the report, and in parentheses where there are cumulative volume numbers, the date merely illustrating when a case was included in the reports:
Badische v Soda-Fabrics (1897) 14 RPC 919 (HL)
No brackets are used in cases from the Scottish Series of Session Cases from 1907 onwards, and Justiciary Cases from 1917 onwards, but instead the case name is followed by a comma:
Corcoran v HM Advocate, 1932 JC 42
It is usual to refer to Justiciary Cases (criminal cases before the High Court of Justiciary) simply by the name of the panel (or accused).
In US, South African, and some Canadian cases the date falls at the end of the reference:
Quote extracts from cases exactly. Do not amend to improve the sense, and clearly indicate if you correct obvious errors. Omitted text should be indicated by ellipses.
Since 2001 most UK cases have been given a neutral citation, which is the official number attributed to the judgment by the court. Give the neutral citation first, followed by a citation of the best report (see
To cite a specific paragraph of a judgment, enclose the paragraph number in square brackets:
Cite a newspaper report if there is no other published report. The reference should not be abbreviated or italicized:
When a case has not (yet) been reported and there is no neutral citation, cite just the name of the court and the date of the judgment. The word ‘unreported’ should not be used:
Unreported EU cases are handled differently (see
13.4.3 Courts of decision
Unless the case has a neutral citation, was heard in the High Court or was reported in a series that covers the decisions of only one court, the court of decision should be indicated by initials at the end of the reference:
Bowman v Fussy  RPC 545, HL
Re Bourne  2 Ch 43
References to unreported cases, however, should be made in parentheses to the court of decision first (even if it is an inferior court), followed by the date. Reference is not normally made to the deciding judge (for example ‘per Ferris J’), except when wishing to specify him or her when quoting from a Court of Appeal or House of Lords decision.
Where a case has been included in a report long after it was heard, both the report and hearing dates may be included in the citation so the reader knows there has been no error:
A single ‘best’ reference should be given for each case cited. For UK cases, the reference should be to the official Law Reports; if the case has not been reported there, the Weekly Law Reports (WLR) are preferred, and failing that the All England Reports (All ER). In certain specialist areas it will be necessary to refer to the relevant specialist series, for example Family Law Reports and Industrial Cases Reports.
13.4.4 European Union
Where it is available, cite a reference to the official reports of the EU, the European Court Reports (ECR), in preference to other reports. If an ECR reference is not available, the second-best reference will usually be to the Common Market Law Reports (CMLR). However, where a case is reported by the (UK) official Law Reports, the WLR, or the All ER, that may be cited in preference to CMLR, particularly if readers may not have ready access to CMLR. If the case is not yet reported it should be cited with a reference to the relevant notice in the Official Journal.
The case number should always be given before the name of a case in the Court of Justice of the European Union (which consists of the Court of Justice, the General Court (formerly the Court of First Instance), and the Civil Service Tribunal):
Treat Commission Decisions—but not Council Decisions—as cases.
Judgments of the courts are uniformly translated into English from French, sometimes inexactly. If the meanings of such judgments are not clear, refer to the original French for clarification.
13.4.5 European Human Rights
For decisions of the European Court of Human Rights cite official reports or the European Human Rights Reports (EHRR), providing one in preference to the other throughout. Until 1 November 1998 the official reports were known as Series A and numbered consecutively. The official reports were then renamed as Reports of Judgments and Decisions and they are cited as ECHR. The EHRR series is consecutively numbered, but from 2001 case numbers replaced page numbers:
Plattform ‘Artze für das Leben’ v Austria (App no 10126/82) (1988) Series A no 139
Osman v UK (App no 23452/94) ECHR 1998-VIII 3124
Decisions and reports of the European Commission of Human Rights (now defunct) should cite the relevant application number, a reference to the Decisions and Reports of the Commission series (or earlier to the Yearbook of the ECHR), and—if available—a reference to the EHRR:
13.4.6 Other cases
The citation of laws in other jurisdictions is too big a subject to cover in any great detail here. Authors and editors unsure of the relevant conventions should consult The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation (19th edn, 2010). This is a useful guide to citing legal sources from a wide range of jurisdictions.