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LAW Foreign Cases and Decisions

This guide is intended to help researchers locate the cases and decisions of foreign jurisdictions.

Accessing the law of the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom (U.K.) includes England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. When researching U.K. case law, begin by looking at the court system. England and Wales; Northern Ireland; Scotland have their own courts. the Privy Council makes decisions only for Commonwealth countries and these are not binding on U.K. courts. Since the Privy Council is made up of Supreme Courts Judges the decisions are persuasive. Not all cases are available electronically, so you may need to find them (especially older cases) in print.

European Union (E.U.) law has had an impact on U.K. law since the European Communities Act of 1972. The House of Lords ruled in Factorame litigation that E.U. law overrides domestic law. When the E.U. law applies to U.K., look for E.U. Directives. Statutory instruments may be passed under the E.U. Directive. E.U. decisions come from cases that are binding. The decisions are binding only on the parties, not on other member states. E.U. also has recommendations and opinions which are persuasive but not binding.

British documents may be dated by  "regnal" year (for example 55 Elizabeth II) meaning the year "of the reign".

Impact of U.K. law on Canadian Law

In Canadian law, U.K. law is only persuasive and the degree of persuasiveness is affected by statutory provision, court level, judge and/or facts. England, Wales and Northern Ireland are common law jurisdictions. Scotland is a hybrid of common and civil law.

Electronic sources for cases

Some cases are available on the Internet, on court websites and the British and Irish Legal Information Institute (BAILII) site as well as other databases. When "noting up" these options are not comprehensive so use more than one.

Print sources for cases

The library purchases books from the U.K. If you have a case citation, use the library catalogue to see if the reporter is available in print.

Secondary Sources

Start  legal research with secondary sources, including encyclopedia, books and journal articles.

The U.K.'s legal encyclopedia is Halsbury's Laws of England (KD310 .H38) available in print on the 1st floor of the law library. Halsbury's Laws provides a brief introduction to the topic and  includes laws, subject index, consolidated table of cases, consolidated table of statutes, consolidated index and supplement.

Use the library search box on the main library page to locate books. The leading U.K. publisher is Sweet and Maxwell.

The Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals is available on the database HeinOnline. If a journal is there, it will may available in full text.