Skip to Main Content

Library Services

  1. Library Services Home
  2. Resources
  3. Support
  4. About
  5. My Library

Citing and referencing legal resources using Harvard

A guide covering citing and referencing legal materials using Harvard, including examples for case law and legislation.

An explanation about UK case law

The United Kingdom courts formulate law in the form of court decisions, i.e. case law. The most important cases are written up by a court reporter: these are called 'law reports'.

Cite them right gives advice on how to cite and reference law reports (cases). There is a distinction made between:

  • Citing and referencing cases from 2001 onwards, where a neutral citation is available for the case.
  • Pre-2001 cases or any other case where there is no neutral citation.

What is a neutral citation and how do you know a case has got one?

From approximately 2001 onwards, the courts started to allocate 'neutral citations' to cases. Neutral citations enable people to find cases online more easily. Each neutral citation is made up of:

  • a year
  • an abbreviation for the relevant court (e.g. UKSC for the Supreme Court; EWCA Crim for the Court of Appeal Criminal Division)
  • a number (i.e. the number 4 would mean the fourth case heard in that particular court that year)

As a general rule, if you are looking at a case on the British and Irish Legal Information Institute (BAILII) webpage, the neutral citation (if there is one) will be listed at the top right hand side of the page. See for example the 2001 Court of Appeal case of Mills v Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries & Food. You will see at the top right of the BAILII webpage that this case has a neutral citation of [2001] EWCA Civ 1346.

This neutral citation will be useful for you when you are constructing your reference (see section below entitled 'UK cases with neutral citations').

UK cases with neutral citations

If a case has a neutral citation, Cite them right says that you should include in your reference list: 'Name of the case' (year) court, case number. Database or website [Online]. Available at: URL (Accessed: date).

In-text citation: A recent case ('R (on the application of Newby Foods Ltd) v. Food Standards Agency', 2017) states that...

Reference list: 'R (on the application of Newby Foods Ltd) v. Food Standards Agency' (2017) Court of Appeal, Civil Division, case 431. Westlaw [Online]. Available at: (Accessed: 24 August 2018).

UK cases without a neutral citation

Cases without a neutral citation tend to be cases which pre-date the year 2001, i.e. older cases.

In your reference, you need to include 'Name of case' (year) title of law report, volume number, page numbers.

In-text citation: It was decided in the case of 'Bibby Cheshire v. Golden Wonder Ltd' (1972) that...

Reference list: 'Bibby Cheshire v. Golden Wonder Ltd' (1972) Weekly Law Reports, 1, pp. 1487-1492.