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Database Tutorials for Law

Law databases

Westlaw UK and Lexis Library are the two databases where you can find up to date sources of UK legislation and reports of legal cases, as well as other reference material in law.

Both databases have the full text of UK laws and statutory instruments, and the top-level law reports from the Queen’s Bench, Chancery Division, etc. (known as The Law Reports), but they differ in which of the lower-level reports they may have – for example, Westlaw UK has the Weekly Law Reports but not the All England Law Reports.  There is similarly little overlap in the legal periodicals which each database holds, so it is advisable to use both databases regularly.

 

Westlaw UK

From www.findit.bham.ac.uk click on Find Databases and type Westlaw UK into the Name box.  Click on Find Database.

 

Finding legislation

In the Westlaw UK search screen, click on Legislation.  This will give you the legislation search screen.

You can search for legislation on a particular topic by using either the Free Text search, which will look for your terms in the full text of the legislation, or by Subject/Keyword which will match your terms to the headings given by the database (click on More Options to see all the boxes).

If you have a specific statute that you want to find, you can search by its title in the Act/SI Title box.

Example:  To find the Employment Act 2008:

This will bring up a link to the Act as well as any statutory instruments associated with it:

 

Click on the link to the Act to see the full text of it, arranged in sections:

The coloured icons to the left of each section indicate which sections are currently in force (  ), repealed (  ), or which have amendments pending (  ).

If you click on the number of a section which has been repealed – in this example, section 5, it will give you, instead of the text of the section, three dots enclosed in square brackets.  At the bottom of the page there should be a note about the repeal and a link to the new act or section that it has been repealed by.  There is also a diagram on the right showing different historical versions of this section:

 

Finding cases

In the Westlaw UK search screen, click on Cases.  This will give you the cases search screen.

As with legislation, court cases can be searched for by using free text or subject keywords, but specific cases can also be found by the names of the parties involved or by the OSCOLA citation.

Example:  To find reports of the case Western Excavating Ltd v Sharp, an employment case heard in the Court of Appeal (Civil Division) in 1977:

If you click on Search, it will produce the following reference:

This provides you with a range of important information concerning the case:

  • The green tick and the comment next to it indicates that this case has been used in subsequent court cases in a positive way to support the judgement, which means that you can use it in support of any legal argument you are making.  The 'Significant' comment also means that the judgement or reasoning in this case was in some way significant for future application of the law.  Other comments to look out for here are: A) The case has been negatively treated or overruled in a subsequent case, so you should not use it in any legal argument; B) The case has received a mixed or mildly negative subsequent treatment, so use with caution; C) There is a Court of Appeal case pending involving this case, so its status may change to one of the above categories in due course.
     
  • Reports of the case:  The last two lines of the entry show all the series of law reports in which this case was reported.  There is an official hierarchy of law reports whereby those reported from the Queen’s Bench or Chancery Division are considered the most authoritative, followed by the Weekly Law Reports and All England Law Reports, and finally, the range of other specialist series and newspaper law reports.
    These are always listed in Westlaw in hierarchical order beginning with the most authoritative.  The series are cited by their OSCOLA citation.  To look up the full name of each series, you can use the Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations: http://www.legalabbrevs.cardiff.ac.uk/.

     
  • Case Analysis:  The first link, highlighted in yellow, is a case analysis.  Note that this is not a law report, but an analysis of the case written by the legal staff at Westlaw to provide you with useful  background information about it.  The actual law reports are then listed in hierarchical order with the most authoritative first.  The ones highlighted in green are those where the full text is available in Westlaw.  We may still have the other reports available either through Lexis Library or in print in the Library.

 

Browse by Topic

The Browse by Topic section in the middle of the Westlaw home page is an encyclopedia of legal topics and law in the UK.  It is a useful starting-point for research into any legal topic as it provides basic information about it as well as links to the most significant legislation and cases that are relevant to it.  In most cases, there is also a list of references to books and academic articles for further reading about the topic.

It can be searched in two ways: either by doing a keyword search for your topic of interest in the search box, selecting Overviews from the drop-down menu marked Options, or else by selecting one of the topics listed and drilling down through the sub-sections offered.

 

LEXIS PSL

Lexis PSL is listed as a separate database and can also be used to gain an idea of the essentials of a new topic.  It is a service designed for legal practitioners to keep them updated in their areas of practice, and it provides links to relevant cases and legislation in the Lexis Library database.

Westlaw UK and Lexis Library are the two databases where you can find up to date sources of UK legislation and reports of legal cases, as well as other reference material in law.

Both databases have the full text of UK laws and statutory instruments, and the top-level law reports from the Queen’s Bench, Chancery Division, etc. (known as The Law Reports), but they differ in which of the lower-level reports they may have – for example, Westlaw UK has the Weekly Law Reports but not the All England Law Reports.  There is similarly little overlap in the legal periodicals which each database holds, so it is advisable to use both databases regularly.

Lexis Library

From www.findit.bham.ac.uk click on Find Databases and type Lexis Library into the Name box.  Click on Find Database.

 

Finding legislation

In the Lexis Library search screen, click on the Legislation tab.  This will give you the legislation search screen.

You can search for legislation on a particular topic by typing keywords into the Search Terms box and/or selecting topics from a list behind the link Add Topics to Search.

If you have a specific statute that you want to find, you can search by its title in the Title box, and the year of enactment in the Year Enacted box.

Example:  To find the Employment Act 2008:

This will bring up the Act as well as any other documents associated with it:

The first document in the list showing the chapter number (c 24) is the full text of the Act, arranged by sections with links to the text of each section:

The absence of a title and its replacement with three dots next to section 5 in this example indicates that this section has been repealed.  If you click on the three dots, it should show you details of the repeal and a link to the new act or section that has replaced it:

 

 

 

 

On the right-hand side of the same screen, you will see links to other sources of information concerning this Act including earlier versions of it, annotations about it from Halsbury’s Laws of England which give a history of the Act and the debates around it, as well as relevant court cases, commentaries and academic journal articles about it:

 

 

Finding cases

In the Lexis Library search screen, click on Cases.  This will give you the cases search screen.

As with legislation, court cases can be searched for by using keywords and/or selecting terms from a list by using the Add Topics to Search link.  The results can be filtered by the name of the court where they were heard.

Example:  To find reports of the case Western Excavating Ltd v Sharp, an employment case heard in the Court of Appeal (Civil Division) in 1977:

 

If you click on Search, it will produce the following:

The case reports appear in date order with the latest listed first.  There is an official hierarchy of law reports whereby those reported from the Queen’s Bench or Chancery Division are considered the most authoritative, followed by the Weekly Law Reports and All England Law Reports, and finally, the range of other specialist series and newspaper law reports, so you will need to know which of these reports to use in preference.  The Source column shows the law report series in which the case was reported.

The item marked Case Overview in the Source column is not a law report but an analysis of the case provided by the legal experts at Lexis Library, and should not be used as a report.  It does, however, provide useful information about the history of the case and links to other cases that have been considered in the judgement, and subsequent cases that have used this one in their deliberations.

The Signal column indicates whether subsequent cases have treated the judgement in this one positively (  ) or negatively (  ).


Halsbury’s Laws of England

One of the resources available in the My Bookshelf section of the Lexis Library home page is Halsbury’s Laws of England:

This is the electronic version of the traditional encyclopedic work on all aspects of English and Welsh law which has been available in printed volumes for over 100 years.  It is updated by Lexis Library regularly and is a useful starting-point for research on any legal topic.  It can be searched either by keyword or by browsing an alphabetical list of topics and their subdivisions.

Articles will have links to relevant court cases, legislation and definitions of legal terms used.

 

JustisOne is an online resource covering UK, Irish, EU and international case law legislation. This includes:

  • JUSTIS England & Wales Judgments Complete (Civil & Criminal) -  a searchable repository of the Courts of Appeal
  • The English Reports - the oldest collection of the most authoritative, comprehensive law reports in publication
  • Aspinall's Maritime Law CasesReports of cases relating to maritime law, containing all the decisions of the courts of law and equity in the United Kingdom, and selections from the more important decisions in the colonies and the United States
  • Irish Reports & Digest - full text of case reports from 1838 to the present day
  • JUSTIS Irish Cases & Legislation - searchable database of full text case law from the Republic of Ireland
  • Session Cases Archive - Scottish session cases 1821-1872
  • JUSTIS EU - full coverage of EU legal information from 1951 to the present day
  • UK Statutes - searchable database of UK Acts of Parliament covering England, Scotland and Wales from the medieval period to the present day
  • Statutory Instruments with Archive & State Trials - a searchable database of archived early law reports and secondary legislation from England, Scotland and Wales. The period covered is 17th Century to the present day.
  • Singapore Academy Collection - access to articles from the Singapore Academy of Law  (SAL Academy Journal and SAL Annual Review
   

Quick Search

  • Click on the Databases link at the top of the page at FindIt@bham ( findit.bham.ac.uk) In the box that appears type in JustisOne and press return. A link to this database will appear below . A list of all sections of JustisOne will appear. Click on the link for JustisOne to access the database.
  • To do a Quick Search, select your jurisdiction from the Settings icon   at the bottom left of the screen
  • Select Jurisdictions and  then select the area you wish to search. For this example click the > next to United Kingdom 
  • Then select a country by placing a tick in the box:

 

  • Type "duty of care" into the search box:

 

  • Click on  and your results will appear on the screen:

 

  • You can filter results by Material Type, Jurisdiction or Categories.
  • Under Material Type how many results can you see for:
  • Cases?
  • Legislation (Acts and Statutory Instruments)?
  • EU Materials?

 

  • You can sort your results by: Relevance Most Recent First, Oldest First, Title/Parties, or Court

 

Advanced Search

  • JustisOne also offers the opportunity to do more advanced searches, for example, once you have logged in via FindIt@Bham (findit.bham.ac.ukClick on the Advanced button   and then choose from a selection of All, Cases , Legislation or EU to reveal an online form:

 

  • An online form is revealed for each selection:

             

  • Cases 
    • Type your search terms into the relevant boxes i.e. Beasley v Beasley
    • Select from Core Products and Report Series as applicable i.e. United Kingdom Judgments NB: the information 'i' button to the right will indicate whether the University has full access or citation information only.
    • Click on the Search button
    • Once your results have loaded you should be able to filter by Material Type, Jurisdiction or Categories
    • You can also sort by relevance Most Recent FirstOldest FirstTitle/Parties or Court
  • Legislation
    • ​Type your search terms into the relevant boxes i.e. European Union (Withdrawal) Act
    • Select from Legislation Types as applicable i.e. Statutory Instruments
    • Click on the Search button
    • Once your results have loaded you should be able to filter by Material TypeJurisdiction or Categories
    • You can also sort by relevance Most Recent FirstOldest FirstTitle/Parties or Court
  • EU
    • ​Type your search terms into the relevant boxes i.e. Immigration Act
    • Select from EU Sectors as applicable i.e. Parliamentary Questions
    • Click on the Search button
    • Once your results have loaded you should be able to filter by Material TypeJurisdiction or Categories
    • You can also sort by relevance Most Recent FirstOldest FirstTitle/Parties or Court

 

Online Help and Tutorials:

Lawtel

Lawtel is a database aimed principally at the practising lawyer.  It contains the full text of UK statutes and law reports as well as professional updates, academic and newspaper articles and specialist reports such as personal injury quantum reports.  It is not as comprehensive in the areas of legislation and case reports as Westlaw UK or Lexis Library

The basic search

From the basic search screen, you can search for:

  • Cases:  Reports of court cases, case comments, practice directions, pending actions and permissions to appeal.
  • Legislation:  The full text of statutes, statutory instruments, as well as parliamentary bills and command papers.  There is also in this section a searchable calendar of sessions when specific legislation is being debated.
  • Articles & Press:  Indexes articles in academic journals, newspapers and press releases.  N.B. Some of the references have links to the full text of the articles, but if there is no link, you need to do a title search on FindIt@Bham to see if we have the publication available here.
  • Specialist Areas:  This menu allows you to limit your search to specific common areas of legal practice such as employment or human rights.
  • Trends & Analysis:  This menu provides options for specialist analysis of personal injury claims and payments.

 

User guides

There are some downloadable user guides available here.

House of Commons Parliamentary Papers  (HCPP) includes the complete file of House of Commons Parliamentary Papers, also known as Sessional Papers or Blue Books, dating from 1715 through to today.

This includes:

  • Bills – drafts of legislation, to be reviewed through various parliamentary stages.
  • House of Commons Papers – documents resulting from the work of the House of Commons.
  • Command Papers – government papers conveying information or decisions the Government wishes to draw to attention of the House, presented ‘by Command of Her Majesty’.

The latter two categories break down further into:

  • Reports of Committees – Select or the Whole House. Appointed to investigate issues of concern.
  • Reports of Commissioners – commissions appointed by the Crown to investigate social problems, to conduct inquiries into events, and as a preparation for legislation.
  • Accounts – statistical information, originating primarily from the Treasury, the Board of Trade and the War Office/Admiralty.
  • Papers – correspondence from ambassadors, governors, army officers abroad; commercial, trade and navigation accounts, statistical abstracts: judicial, taxation, etc; census data; slavery and slave trade documents; treaties.

Plus, the 18th Century Collection includes pre-Hansard debates, House of Lords and House of Commons journals, rare private bills, other legislative materials, and reports and papers presented to both Houses.

Basic Search

Use this page to search the full text across the content, or use Find Terms (just below the search box) to review subject headings.

Use the boxes below the search box to search for Command Papers, Debates, or members information.

Advanced Search

Use this to search within specific document types (options on the left side) or within specific time periods, paper types, or document features (options below the search boxes).

Note that on the search form, you have an option to use the pulldowns to search using all fields including full text, all fields except full text, author/chair, title, or subject.

Search by Number

Use the Search by Number form when you have information from a specific citation you need to find.

Command Papers

The numbered series of Command papers began in 1833 and continues to the present. Even though the command papers citation format changed over time, the user just needs to know the Command Paper number and enter that into the search box.

Note that because there are 6 separate series of Command Papers from 1833 to the present (see below), a search for a given command paper number may result in up to 6 different results. This is by design as it is easier for the user to view 6 items to determine which Command Paper is the one relevant to their research, rather than to remember which is the proper abbreviated publication prefix.

In 1833, a numbered series began and the form of the citation changed over time.

[1] - [4222] - 1833-1868/69
[C.1] - [C.9550] - 1870-1899
[Cd 1] - [Cd 9239] - 1900-1918
[Cmd 1] - [Cmd 9889] - 1919-1956
[Cmnd 1] - [Cmnd 9927] - 1956-November 1986
[Cm 1] onwards - November 1986 to date

During the eighteenth century, Command Papers were printed as appendices to the House of Commons Journal. This method was abandoned as the number of papers the Government wished to bring before the House grew.

Sample search:  In the image above, there is a search for #542.   There are 5 results, shown below, showing the various Command Papers assigned that number over time. 

Note that the Command Papers search can be limited by the following:

  • Sessional Volume number (on the initial search page)
  • Parliamentary Session or Date Range (see options in the upper left of the results page),  or
  • subject or century (from the filters in the lower left)

in order to winnow down the results, if viewing the short list of titles isn't helpful.

Members, Officers and Constituencies

Use the Members, Offices, and Constituencies form to look up members, either individually, or those who share party affiliation, office, or national origin from 1803-2005.

Use the Lookup Member link to check for correct spelling.

Note:  to use the check boxes for office, party affiliation, or nation, it is not necessary to fill in any information at the top of the form.  For example, check the box for Assistant Postmaster-General and then the Search butten to see which Members of Parliament have held that position. 

The Member Profile has four tabs

  • Details,
  • Constituency,
  • Parliamentary Offices, and
  • Hansard Contributions. 

(Note:  not all member profiles contain all four tabs). 

What is Hansard?

Hansard is the name given to the transcripts of UK parliamentary debates and are named after the first official printer to the Westminster Parliament, Thomas Hansard (1776-1833). The transcipts comprise a verbatim report of what is said by Members and Peers in Parliament. It also includes details of voting divisions and report decisions taken in a sitting.

What does Hansard Online cover?

A “rolling” version of Hansard is published online in instalments during sitting days, with the printed record (daily part) of a day’s sitting becoming available the next morning, alongside an online version. Each House of Parliament has separate publications. Commons Hansard includes proceedings in the Commons Chamber and Westminster Hall, as well as written ministerial statements, petitions and ministerial corrections, while Lords Hansard details proceedings in the Lords Chamber and Grand Committee. Separate reports are produced of proceedings in Commons General and Public Bill Committees.

To connect to the resource go to: https://hansard.parliament.uk/

Hansard Online Archive for pre-2010 information:

Using Hansard Online:

1. Search for a Member

  • In the general search box type the name of the person you are looking for i.e. Anna Soubry

  • Click Search
  • The results page displays a photograph of the Member, their designated House, parliamentary party and constituency. For Members of the House of Lords constituency data is replaced by a note of Life Peer or Excepted Hereditary

  • The page for a Member is divided as follows with links to details of:
    • Debate titles
    • Spoken references - where the Member is listed in the spoken words of others
    • Written statements
    • Ministerial corrections
    • Petitions
    • Divisions
    • Committees
  • By clicking on the name of the Member you will see how long the Member has held their constituency seat.

  • This page also allows you to access:
    • Spoken contributions - there is a choice to list by group or subject
    • Commons written statements
    • Ministerial corrections
    • Voting record - how the Member voted at a Division

 

  • The Search box allows you to use keywords to see whether or not a Member has contributed to a debate
  • Type Council Tax in the box. You have the option to select a date range if required. 

  • Click on Search
  • Click on Spoken contributions to see the text from Hansard, including the contribution and the whole debate if required.
   
(i) Contribution (ii) Debate, with search terms highlighted

2. Searching the House of Commons:

  • The content options for House of Commons information are as follows:

  • Sections default to the last day of sitting. You can navigate to dates prior to this by using the calendar on the left-hand side
  • View latest sittings
    • As well as proceedings in the Comomns Chamber itself, this section covers Westminster Hall, Written statements, Petitions, Ministerial corrections, General committees, Public Bill committees etc.
  • Browse sittings
    • As well as proceedings in the Comomns Chamber itself, this section covers Westminster Hall, Written statements, Petitions, Ministerial corrections, General committees, Public Bill committees etc.
  • List debates
    • This section allows you to search for debates in both Houses as well as browsing subject by date
    • Type Brexit to see the range of debates in one or both Houses

 

  • List divisions
    • List divisions allows you to see the outcome of votes taken in the Commons Chamber. 
    • Type Railway . Click on Search. In the results boxes you can click on the Ayes or the Noes to see who voted which way by name, party or chart. Click on the Teller button to see who officiated in the count of votes.
  • Browse MPs
    • Allows you to search for current and former Members of Parliament in both Houses

3. Searching the House of Lords:

  • The content options for House of Commons information are as follows:

  • Sections default to the last day of sitting. You can navigate to dates prior to this by using the calendar on the left-hand side
  • View latest sittings
    • As well as proceedings in the Comomns Chamber itself, this section covers Westminster Hall, Written statements, Petitions, Ministerial corrections, General committees, Public Bill committees etc.
  • Browse sittings
    • As well as proceedings in the Comomns Chamber itself, this section covers Westminster Hall, Written statements, Petitions, Ministerial corrections, General committees, Public Bill committees etc.
  • List debates
    • This section allows you to search for debates in both Houses as well as browsing subject by date
    • Type Brexit to see the range of debates in one or both Houses
  • List divisions
    • List divisions allows you to see the outcome of votes taken in the Commons Chamber. 
    • Type Railway . Click on Search. In the results boxes you can click on the Ayes or the Noes to see who voted which way by name, party or chart. Click on the Teller button to see who officiated in the count of votes.
  • Browse Peers
    • Allows you to search for current and former Members of Parliament in both Houses

 

4. Searching by volume

  • If you have the volume and column number of the debate or entry you wish to look for, the Search box at the bottom of the resource homepage allows you to search by these two criteria. You will need to choose either the Commons or the Lords radio button as required. Click on Find to start your search.

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