The Law Reports began in 1865, and are the most authoritative reports of cases in the UK. The Law Reports include the most important judgments from the House of Lords and Privy Council; the Court of Appeal - Criminal and Civil Divisions, the Chancery Division, Family Division, and Queen's Bench Division; the Employment Appeal Tribunal; and the European Courts of Justice.

At present the current series titles of the Law Reports are: Appeal Cases (AC) (which includes judgments from the House of Lords), Queen's Bench Division (QBD), Chancery (Ch) and Family (Fam). Older, discontinued series include Crown Cases Reserved 1865-75 (LR CCR) and Probate, Divorce & Admiralty Division 1891-1970 (P).

Both the Law Reports and the Weekly Law Reports (WLR) are published by the Incorporated Council of Law Reporters (ICLR). Judgments that appear in volumes 1 and 2 of the WLRs will be published in the Law Reports, after they have been checked by the judges. The Law Reports are the only reports that include arguments of counsel. The Law Reports also have comprehensive catchwords (which are used to index the cases), headnotes and lists of cases cited during the case and in the judgment.

According to a Practice Direction issued in 2001 by Lord Woolf CJ:

'both the High Court and the Court of Appeal require that where a case has been reported in the official Law Reports published by the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for England and Wales it must be cited from that source. Other series may only be used when a case is not reported in the Law Reports.' [2001] 1 WLR 194

Where are the Law Reports? Online in Lexis Library and Westlaw, and in print at Cw UK 150 L on the main floor of the Bodleian Law Library.

Index to the Law Reports

The Law Reports are indexed in a separate set of books known as the 'Red Books'. Each main volume covers one decade, beginning 1951. Since 2000, soft back supplements have been published quarterly, annually and bi-annually (shown in the box in the left). The indexes can be searched by:

  • Cases reported, listed alphabetically by party, giving citations
  • Subject, including 'words and phrases judicially considered'
  • Cases judicially considered, to find out if a judgment has been considered in a subsequent case
  • UK Statutes and Statutory Instruments judicially considered
  • Standard Forms of contract judicially considered
  • EC enactments judicially considered
  • Overseas enactments judicially considered
  • International conventions judicially considered

It is important to know if a judgment is still considered good law, or if it has been overruled or departed from in any subsequent judgments. You can do this in the online legal databases, and in print indexes.

How to search the subsequent judicial history of a case using the Law Reports Indexes

To find out if a particular judgment has been given judicial consideration in a subsequent judgment:

  1. Begin at the volume for the decade in which the judgment was reported, or at 1951, whichever is later.
  2. Turn to the Cases judicially considered section (not Cases reported).
  3. Find the party names.
  4. Repeat this search in subsequent indexes up to the present day.