Skip to Main Content

Referencing and citations - OSCOLA: Case law

Referencing and citations - OSCOLA

In a nutshell

The components of a typical case citation are the case name, the neutral citation (where appropriate) and the law report citation.

Use italics for the name of the case, with an unpunctuated italic v to separate the names of adverse parties.

A comma separates the neutral citation and the law report citation.

There are no full stops in the abbreviations: hence ‘UKHL’ rather than ‘U.K.H.L.’.

From page 20 in the OSCOLA guide, you can find further information on citation of older cases, and cases from other constituent parts of the UK.

Citations WITH neutral citation

The components of a typical case citation including a neutral citation are:

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

Neutral citations can be found by checking the case on one of the big commercial databases, or on BAILII.

Only cases from 2001 onwards will have neutral citations.

The example below indicates that the case involving Corr and IBC Vehicles Ltd was the thirteenth judgment issued by the House of Lords in 2008, and that a report of the judgment can be found in volume one of the 2008 volume of the series of the Law Reports called the Appeal Cases, beginning at page 884.

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

Citations WITHOUT neutral citation

The components of a typical case citation without a neutral citation (ie prior to 2001) are:

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

  • Page v Smith [1996] AC 155 (HL).

NB: put the court abbreviation in brackets at the end of the citation.

Which report to cite?

In England and Wales, there are no official law reports of any kind, but the Law Reports series published by the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting ( are regarded as the most authoritative reports - they include the arguments of counsel and are checked by both counsel and the judge. If a case is reported in this series, it should be cited in preference to any other report.

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.

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’.

  • Stubbs v Sayer (CA, 8 November 1990).

  • Calvert v Gardiner  [2002] EWHC 1394 (QB).

EU cases

Judgments of the European Court of Justice and Court of First Instance:

Give the case registration number in roman and then the name of the case in italics, with no punctuation between them. Give the report citation in the same form as for UK cases. The case number can be checked on any of the commercial databases or on EUR-lex, and will consist of the court prefix, a rolling number and the year. Citations should follow the format:

case number | case name | [year] | report abbreviation | first page.

  • Case T–344/99 Arne Mathisen AS v Council [2002] ECR II–2905.

Where possible, refer to the official European Court Reports, which are cited as ECR. If an ECR reference is not available, the second best report is usually the Common Market Law Reports (CMLR).

When citing an opinion of an Advocate General, add the words ‘Opinion of AG [name]’ after the case citation and a comma, and before any pinpoint.

  • Case C–411/05 Palacios de la Villa v Cortefiel Servicios SA [2007] ECR I–8531, Opinion of AG Mazák, paras 79–100.

Decisions of the European Commission in relation to competition law and mergers are to be treated as cases. Give the names of the parties (or the commonly used short name) in italics, the case number in brackets, the Commission Decision number (where available), and the OJ report.

  • Alcatel/Telettra (Case IV/M.042) Commission Decision 91/251/EEC [1991] OJ L122/48

Further information about citing EU cases can be found from page 30 of the OSCOLA guide.


You may wish to refer to a specific paragraph of a judgement or page of a report in your work.

If the judgment has numbered paragraphs, pinpoint to a particular paragraph by putting the relevant paragraph number in square brackets. If pinpointing to more than one paragraph, separate the paragraph numbers in square brackets with a comma. If citing spans of paragraphs, insert a dash between the first and last paragraph being cited.

  •  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].

If a law report citation ends with the identification of the court in brackets, the pinpoint follows the closing bracket, without any comma. Where the court is not identified in this way, and you are pinpointing to a page number, insert a comma to prevent the numbers running together. Where the pinpoint reference is to the first page of the report, repeat the page number. Multiple page number pinpoints should be separated by commas.

  •  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.


Use [square brackets] around the year in your citation when the year is necessary to identify the volume - ie if you removed the year from the citation, you would not be able to locate it.

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

Use (round brackets) when the volumes of the law report series are independently numbered, so that the year of publication is not needed to find the volume. In this instance, the year being given is the year of the judgement, NOT the year of publication.

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