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Referencing - OSCOLA

General rules

To cite a case, you need the name (or title) of the case and a citation (publication information). 

The citation may be to a print law report or it may be a number assigned by HM Courts and Tribunals Service (a 'neutral citation').  You can find case citations in the Table of Cases in the front of your textbooks, and in the legal databases Lexis and Westlaw.  A case may be reported in multiple law reports but it will only have one neutral citation.  

post 2000 case: case name | neutral citation | law report citation

pre-2001 case: case name | law report citation

How many citations?

  • If the case has only law report citations (no neutral citation), just the 'best' report (see below). You only need to use one law report citation.
  • If the case has both a neutral citation and at least one law report citation, put the neutral citation first, followed by the 'best' law report citation.

For more detail, see p. 20 in the OSCOLA guide.

Neutral citations (2001 - )

Neutral citations are assigned by the court, it  is independent (or neutral) of the law reports system.  Cases are not identified by reporter, volume and page number but instead use the name of the court and the case number.

This case has a neutral citation and a law report citation:

Corr v IBC Vehicles Ltd [2008] UKHL 13, [2008] 1 AC 884.

Neutral citation: [2008] UKHL 13

Law report citation: [2008] 1 AC 884.

Neutral citations refer to the court (in Corr, UKHL = House of Lords);  law report citations refer to the print reporter.  Only cases from 2001 onwards will have neutral citations. A guide to the court abbreviations in neutral citations is available from BAILII.

History of neutral citations: https://www.innertemplelibrary.org.uk/research-and-training/guide-to-neutral-citations/

Neutral citations can be found by checking the case on Lexis, Westlaw, Practical Law, or on BAILII.

Warning: This is not a neutral citation:  2022 WL 01492464 
This it is a citation introduced by Westlaw which only works within Westlaw.

Law report citations

Since cases prior to 2001 usually don't have a neutral citation, use only the law report citation:

case name | [year] OR (year) | volume | report abbreviation | first page | (court).

Page v Smith [1996] AC 155 (HL).

Note: If there is no neutral citation,  put the court abbreviation in brackets at the end of the citation.

Law report citations and brackets: round or square?

[square] when the year is necessary to identify the volume (if the volume number starts over each year):

Barrett v Enfield LBC [2001] 2 AC 550 (HL).

(round) when the volumes of the law report series are independently numbered, (the volume numbers continue without returning to 1 each year):

Barrett v Enfield LBC (1999) 49 BMLR 1 (HL).

Which law report to cite? The 'best' law reports

Use the ICLR "law reports" series (AC, KB, QB, Ch, Fam), if the case is reported there.

If a judgment is not reported in the Law Reports, cite the Weekly Law Reports or the All England Law Reports. Only if a judgment is not reported in one of these general series should you refer to a specialist series, such as the Lloyd’s Law Reports or the Family Law Reports.

Why ICLR? Although there are no official law reports in England and Wales, the ICLR (Incorporated Council of Law Reporting) series are considered the most authoritative because (i) they include the arguments of counsel and (ii) are checked by both counsel and the judge.  For guidance, see the Practice Direction for Citation of Authorities.

Unreported cases

If a case is unreported but has a neutral citation, give that. If an unreported case does not have a neutral citation (which will always be the case before 2001), give the court and the date of the judgment in brackets after the name of the case. There is no need to add the word ‘unreported’.

Cases in footnotes

When citing cases, if the name of the case is given in the text, then it can be omitted from the footnote (give the citation only in the footnote). The full reference (case name and citation) should be included in the bibliography.

Text: The House of Lords applied a subjective test for criminal damage in R v G.1

Footnote: [2003] UKHL 50, [2004] 1 AC 1034.

Bibliography:  R v G [2003] UKHL 50, [2004] 1 AC 1034

Subsequent citations of cases

You only need the full citation for a case once, the first time you cite it. Thereafter, use the short form.

Example: the student provides a citation to Austin v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis in footnote 1.  In footnote 2, various judges' opinions are referenced, from the same case.  In footnote 7, the Austin case is referenced once again.

1.  [2009] UKHL 5, [2009] AC 564.

2.  ibid [34] (Lord Hope), [39] (Lord Scott), [43]–[47] (Lord Walker), [58]–[60] (Lord Neuberger).

...

7. Austin (n 1).

Pinpointing: when citing a specific section of the case

To refer to a specific paragraph or page of a case in your work:

Paragraph:

Callery v Gray [2001] EWCA Civ 1117, [2001] 1 WLR 2112 [42], [45].

Bunt v Tilley [2006] EWHC 407 (QB), [2006] 3 All ER 336 [1]–[37].

Page:

Beattie v E & F Beattie Ltd [1938] Ch 708 (CA) 720, 723.

R v Leeds County Court, ex p Morris [1990] QB 523 (QB) 530–31.

Paragraphs are preferred over pages, as this gives a more precise location in the case.