is the duty of counsel to cite the appropriate law report for a case and it is not sufficient to cite an unofficial report if an official or approved report is available. Therefore, it is important when researching or preparing bundles for counsel
or court, to ensure that the most appropriate law reports are referred to.
There are a large number of law reports and the courts have issued various practice directions from time to time relating to their use. The most recent of these is a practice direction which identifies the hierarchy of the law reports that should be referred
to to clarify the position. This was handed down by the Lord Chief Justice on 23 March 2012 and repeals and varies previous practice directions and statements (paras 2-3), although it does re-state much of the previous practice.
The hierarchy of law reports which should be cited using the following law reports:
First: cases reported in the Official Law Reports (AC, QBD, Ch, Fam) produced by the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for England and Wales). These are the most authoritative reports and contain a summary of
the argument. Where a judgment is reported in these reports, that report must be cited. Other reports and transcripts may only be used when a case is not in the Official Law Reports. Note:
Third: if the case has not been reported in any of the above sets of law reports, but is reported in any of the authoritative specialist series of reports, which contain a headnote and are made by individuals holding a Senior Courts
qualification, that specialist report may be cited. Specialist reports include:
Fourth: where a judgment is not reported in any of the reports listed above, but is reported in other reports, they may be cited
Wherever the report comes from, the copy of the report which is provided to the court should be either a photocopy or a copy of a reproduction in electronic form (which has been authorised by the published) but in either case the following
must be complied with:
In any case of doubt, the court will rely on the printed text of the report (unless the editor of the report has certified that an electronic version is more accurate because it corrects an error contained in an earlier printed text of the
A number of judgments are given ex tempore, that is to say orally by the judge, whether due to pressure of time or for some other reason.In such instances an official transcript will or should become available subsequently. The time this takes will
vary from case to case. However, it is seldom less than two weeks and may be more depending on a variety of factors such as the workload of the shorthand writer/transcription service, the availability of the judge and whether there are any queries
arising out of the transcription.
Digests of ex tempore cases may be found on internet publications such as the All England Reporter service.
The All England Reporter is the only such service whose reports are prepared exclusively by barristers or qualified solicitors, whose name appears at the end of each digest, and hence meet the requirement stated in Halsbury's as quoted above.
The reports are cited as [year] All ER (D) (number) (month), for example: Smith v Jones  All. ER (D) 999 (Nov). All England Reporter also provide links within its digests to cited cases within the same platform.
The practice of issuing neutral citations for judgments, that is to say citations not linked to any series of reports, was introduced in the Court of Appeal and Administrative Courts by Practice Note  1 All ER 193, and extended
to the High Court by Practice Direction  1 All ER 351. The former practice note also introduced the practice of paragraph numbers in judgments. According to Lord Woolf CJ ( 1 All ER 193, paras 2.3-2.4):
2.3 The neutral citation will be the official number attributed to the judgment by the court and must always be used on at least one occasion when the judgment is cited in a later judgment. Once the judgment is reported, the neutral citation
will appear in front of the familiar citation from the law report series. Thus: Smith v Jones  EWCA Civ. 10 at ,  QB. 124,  2 All ER. 364, etc. The paragraph number must be the number allotted by the court in
all future versions of the judgment.
2.4 If a judgment is cited on more than one occasion in a later judgment, it will be of the greatest assistance if only one abbreviation (if desired) is used. Thus Smith v Jones  EWCA Civ. 10 could be abbreviated on subsequent
occasions to Smith v Jones, or Smith's case, but preferably not both (in the same judgment).
Note: some websites have added neutral citations to cases prior to 2001. These have no authority as they were not issued by the court. They should accordingly be used with caution.
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