Bachelor of Laws: Finding UK Cases

A comprehensive guide to legal research created by the VU Law Library

An efficient search for UK case law requires the use of both the ICLR and WestlawUK databases.  Begin by searching the ICLR database.  Doing so will ensure that you locate any authorised versions of the case law being sought.  

  • If the case is found on ICLR then repeat the search on WestlawUK to locate additional information about the case
  • If the case is not found on ICLR then repeat the search on WestlawUK and/or Lexis Advanced to locate the case and additional information about the case

The case law collections of the three databases are unique.  Case law that is available in the ICLR database will not be available in the WestlawUK database and vice versa.  However, a search of WestlawUK will provide additional information about cases whether or not they are available on that database. 

Key Databases ICLR & Westlaw UK


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ICLR - Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for England and Wales

The Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for England and Wales (ICLR) has published the official, authorised law reports for the UK since 1865. Therefore, the ICLR database is usually the first place you should look to find UK cases.

View a short video about the ICLR reports.  Learn more in this short video about the role of a law reporter in the UK.

To search for a case select Full Search.


It is possible to search for a case by party name but it is faster and easier to search by citation.  To search by citation, type the year, law report abbreviation and starting page number into the citation search field.  It is not necessary to include brackets around the year.  For example, enter 1932 AC 562 in the citation field to locate Donoghue v Stevenson.

On the search results page, click on the citation of the case to display the full-text of the decision and citator information.


Authorised Reports

The authorised reports are known collectively as the Law Reports. However, this name includes 3 different series: The First series (1865-1875), Second series (1875-1890) & Third series (1891-present day), and each of these series consists of a range of different titles. 

First Series (1865-1875)
  • Admiralty and Ecclesiastical Cases (1865-75)
  • Crown Cases Reserved (1865-75)
  • Common Pleas Cases (1865-75)
  • Chancery Appeals (1865-75)
  • English and Irish Appeals (1866-1875)
  • Equity Cases (1865-75)
  • Exchequer Cases (1865-75)
  • Privy Council Appeals (1865-75)
  • Probate and Divorce Cases (1865-75)
  • Queen’s Bench Cases (1865-75)
  • Scotch and Divorce Appeals (1866-75)
Second series (1875–1890)
  • Appeal Cases (1875-90)
  • Chancery Division (1875-90)
  • Common Pleas Division (1875–1880)
  • Exchequer Division (1875–1880)
  • Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division (1875-90)
  • Queen’s Bench Division (1875-90)
Third series (1891–present day)
  • Appeal Cases (1891-present)
  • Chancery Division (1891-present)
  • Queen’s Bench  (1891 – 1901, 1952 – present)
  • King's Bench  (1901 – 1952)
  • Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division (1891–1971)
  • Family Division (1972-present)

When citing a UK case, the Law Reports version should be cited where available. See AGLC4 pages 251-2, Rule 24.1.2 for more information and a list of abbreviations for the different Law Reports titles.


Other Reports Available Via ICLR

ICLR also publish a range of other reports. However, the Law Reports are the official, authorised reports for the UK and should be cited in preference to any other.  

The other report series are:
  • Weekly Law Reports (from 1953 to present)
  • Industrial Cases Reports (from 1972 to present).
  • Business Law Reports (from 2007 to present)
  • Public and Third Sector Law Reports (from 2009 to present)

Older Reports - Pre 1865

The Law Reports published by ICLR began in 1865 and continue to the present day.

However, prior to 1865 cases were reported by private court reporters and were published under the name of the reporter. These reports are known as ‘nominate reports’.

Many of these nominate reports have been compiled and reprinted. The first reprint is called the Revised Reports (RR) and the subsequent reprint is called the English Reports (ER). The English Reports are the preferred, and more comprehensive reprint. You will almost always find the pre-1865 case that you are looking for in the English Reports.  

When citing nominate reports, you should also include a parallel citation to one of these reprints.

Lawson v Widdrington (1661) 1 Lev 85; 83 ER 310.

See AGLC4 page 253 Rule 24.1.3 for more information and examples.

You can find the Revised Reports online via Hein or in print in the Law Library.

You can find the English Reports online via Westlaw UK or in print in the Law Library.

When to Use Westlaw UK or Lexis Advanced

Another useful database when researching UK cases is Westlaw UK. Although the authorised Law Reports are available via the ICLR database, Westlaw UK is also useful for finding information about the cases in the ICLR Law Reports, including a Digest.

Westlaw UK also includes the English Reports. Therefore, if you are looking for a case pre 1865 you can check Westlaw UK for the reprint of the case in the English Reports

Furthermore, Lexis Advanced includes the All England Reports (All ER).  If you are looking for a current case that is not available via ICLR, you can use Lexis Advanced to see if the case has been report in the All England Reports.

Flow Chart - Where to Look for UK Cases