The Digest - Cw UK 150 E58a3

The Digest is a compendium of case law from the 1500s onwards. Originally called the English and Empire Digest, it includes cases from England and Wales; Scotland, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and other Commonwealth countries; and EU and European Court of Human Rights cases. The Digest provides a brief summary of cases, and their subsequent judicial history, arranged by subject. It is particularly useful for finding older cases, which are not included in the Current Law series.

Where is the Digest? In print at Cw UK 120 A11 on the main floor of the Bodleian Law Library; there is no direct online equivalent, however as the Digest is a Butterworth's/Lexis production some of this information turns up in Lexis Nexis Butterworths.

The Digest consists of:

  • 52 main volumes organised by subject
  • a two volume annual Cumulative Supplement which updates the main volumes to the end of the previous calendar year
  • Quarterly Survey which updates the Cumulative Supplement and main volumes
  • a three volume Consolidated Table of Cases which is an alphabetical index to all the cases mentioned in the Digest
  • a two volume Consolidated Index which is a subject index.

How to find cases and their judicial history using the Digest

The Digest is regularly updated by annual supplements and the quarterly survey, but it is generally several months out of date. It is not a suitable source for tracing recent changes to the law, but it may be useful if you cannot find the case in Current Law, or if you are looking for older or non-UK cases.

  1. Use the Consolidated Index to find relevant cases. The Index gives subject headings and subheadings, with reference (in bold) to the volume number, relevant heading (abbreviated) and page number.
  2. Use the Consolidated Table of Cases to find information about a specific case. The table gives volume numbers and relevant headings. If the case touches on several subjects, there may be references to several different volumes.
  3. For specific cases, the tables of cases at the beginning of the relevant volume indicates a case number for your case (not a page number). Browse through the volume to the correct case number to find a case summary and citations for the case reports. There follows a list of judgments that have subsequently considered this judgment.
  4. Consult the two volume Cumulative Supplement to find out if the judgment has been considered since the main volume was published. If it has , it will appear in the table of cases at the front of the first volume with a case number and a subject heading. New cases are also included here. The Cumulative Supplement is organised by subject, with direct reference to the main volumes.
  5. Finally, check each Quarterly Survey to see if your case has been considered since the Cumulative Supplement was printed.

Sample page from The Digest

In the sample page from The Digest below, after the headings, there is a reference to Halsbury's Laws, then a cross reference to another part of The Digest, then at number 1 you can see:

  • summary information (in bold) about the key points of the case which is summarised (Definition - Omission to do something etc)
  • parties and citations for reports of the case (Blyth v Birmingham Waterworks Co (1856) 11 Exch 781 etc)
  • subsequent judicial consideration of the case (Distinguished Steggles v New River Co (1863) 1 New Rep 236 etc).

At numbers 2, 3 4 and 5, there are summaries of other cases with the same key points.