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Free Law Resources

Law for non-lawyers


These materials are freely available on the internet, and are suitable for students who are not studying law but need to consult legal materials. This may mean a Social Sciences student looking for the Mental Health Act, a Business student looking for a case on contract law, or a Media student looking for cases of libel relating to journalism.

Cases

Cases or Law Reports are one important source of UK Law. Cases are only reported if they establish new law, or amend existing law. The vast majority are not published. The Courts Service includes a good explanation of the structure of the English court system http://www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk/

A major change occurred in 2009 when the newly established Supreme Court replaced the Law Lords as the UK's ultimate appeal court.

A major free source of UK cases is the BAILII Site, which is not only searchable by the names of the parties involved, but also includes a list of important  cases on particular subjects such as contract law (useful for Business Students who will need to know about this subject)  http://www.bailii.org

Acts

Acts of Parliament are sometimes called Statutes.  They are freely available on the statute law database

Statutory instruments as well as acts can be found on the OPSI site http://www.opsi.gov.uk

Statutory instruments add detail to English law without the need for wholesale reform. Please note that the OPSI site now includes the original and revised versions of Statutes, but only the original version of Statutory Instruments. There are thousands of Statutory Instruments per year. They are usually referred to by a title and a number, eg The Information and Consultation of Employees Regulations 2004/3426. The 3,426th Statutory Instrument of 2004.

European Materials

A third major source of UK law is the European Union.  Directives from Europe, and the Treaties which established the EU can all be found on http://eurlex.europa.eu/en/index.htm

If you have a document number (eg Directive 2004/38/EC)  this may be the best way to search the Europa database.  Most of the ones you are looking for will be crucially important ones such as this one, which establishes the free movement of citizens within the EU.

European Court of Human Rights

Cases referred to this court from the UK might include "right to die" issues such as Pretty v United Kingdom, and other matters in which the decision of the UK courts has been questioned.  The European Court of Human Rights is not an EU institution.  Case law is searchable on the internet, either by party name or subject. http://www.echr.coe.int/  Make sure that you are within the HUDOC part of the database before starting your search.

University of Bedfordshire

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