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How to use the Find Case Law service

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What is case law

Case law is the law which is created through court judgments and tribunal decisions. This is sometimes known as common law. Judges will follow the 'precedent' or the principles used in previous judgments and decisions when deciding on a case. Case law can be used to clarify legislation if it is unclear how it applies in a particular context.

Legislation is law enacted by Parliament or made by the government, and is sometimes known as statute law. Visit the legislation.gov.uk website to find out more.

We do not provide legal advice

This service is designed to help you find court judgments or tribunal decisions. The National Archives does not provide legal advice, interpretation or support. You can find guidance and support at the following organisations:

Find a judgment or decision

You can search the full text of every judgment and decision. You can also search and browse judgments by neutral citation, court, party, judge and within a date range. These options can be combined on the More search options page.

The latest published judgments and decisions are listed on the Find case law page. Alternatively, you can browse by court and filter results.

Search the text of every judgment and decision

The search box on the Find case law page lets you search using any search term including a neutral citation, name(s) and keyword(s). This will search the full text of every judgment or decision we have.

You do not need to do a Boolean search – spaces in between words will act as an 'and'. Results where the words are closest together will appear as the most relevant at the top of the search results.

Search specific fields

Alternatively, you can search using one or more specific search terms on the More search options page. You can use multiple search fields at the same time to narrow down your results. The search boxes search particular fields. With the exception of keyword, these boxes do not search the full text of judgments and decisions.

Neutral citation

The courts allocate a 'neutral citation' to judgments and decisions. This is a unique number and reference. The neutral citation appears at the top of the judgment or decision, and is the official way to cite a judgment or decision.

Examples of neutral citations include:

They typically include:

If you are struggling to find a judgment or decision using a neutral citation, first check:

You can also use neutral citations allocated by the British and Irish Legal Information Institute (BAILII) for judgments and decisions that do not have neutral citations allocated by the courts.

If you are confident that the neutral citation is correct but are struggling to find it, it may be that we don't have that judgment within our collection.

Find out more about our limited coverage of judgments and decisions on our What to expect from this service page.

Party name

This is the name of someone involved in the case, such as the claimant or defendant. There are often multiple party names listed at the top of the judgment or decision.

You can use the 'party name' search field on the More search options page to only search against judgments or decisions where the name is listed as a party. This will not search for the name within the text of all judgments and decisions.

There may be multiple results if the name is listed as a party in multiple judgments or decisions.

You can search using multiple party names at once. This means you can use this search to search by case name. The case name is made from some (or all) of the parties listed as the appellant and defendant.

For example: Cape Intermediate Holdings Ltd v Dring.

If you see a name that has been struck through on a judgment, this means that the person has withdrawn from the case before it was decided.

Keyword

You can search the full text of every judgment and decision using a specific word or short phrase.

Spaces between words will act as an 'and'. Quotation marks will search using that exact phrase only.

Judge's name

The judge(s) who decided a case will appear at the top of the judgment or decision.

You can search by the name of the judge who has decided a case by using the 'Judge's name' box on the More search options page. This means that it will only search for judges that have given a judgment or decision on a case instead of searching every reference to the name of the judge within the full text of every judgment or decision.

You can use a part of the name, the whole name, or the whole name and judicial titles.

Court/Chamber

The court or chamber where the case was decided will appear at the top of the judgment or decision.

You can browse by court or chamber division to see all the judgments and decisions we have received from that court.

Find out more about courts and tribunals.

Date

The date the judgment or decision was handed down will appear at the top of the judgment or decision.

You can search by date range to look for judgments and decisions within a particular time frame.

Search results

The search results are ordered by relevance. Judgments and decisions that contain the search terms within their 'metadata' will be listed above other judgments that only contain the search terms within the full text of the judgment or decision.

Search terms found within the text will be ordered by how many times that search term is used and the proximity between each search term.

For example: if you searched for ‘Jones theft’ then the judgments with ‘Jones’ listed as a party name or judge’s name will appear at the top of the search results, followed by judgments that contain 'Jones' and 'theft' within the text of the judgment.

You can filter results by date range, courts/chamber, party name and judge’s name.

Understanding a judgment or decision

A judgment is the decision a court has made after hearing a case. Written judgments are also known as handed down judgments and can be very long.

The National Archives does not provide summaries, interpretation or advice on any judgments or decisions.

Every judgment or decision will start with a 'header' or title page which contains the important information about the judgment or decision, such as:

The way the text of each judgment or decision is written is up to the judge. Typically, judgments will summarise 'the facts' of the case, the law that applies to those facts, the arguments presented in court, the decision the court has given and the reasons for the decision. The decision made by the judge normally appears towards the end of the judgment or decision.

You may find that some judgments and decisions have reporting restrictions. In these cases the relevant parts of the judgment will be obscured.

How to contact us

You can get in touch by emailing caselaw@nationalarchives.gov.uk.