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OSCOLA for Law

Case Citations

This is the full breakdown of what a case citation might typically include.

case name | [year] | court | number, | [year] OR (year) | volume | report abbreviation | first page
The vertical line | denotes the absence of punctuation.



Lucasfilm Ltd v Ainsworth [2011] UKSC 39, [2012] 1 AC 208

Lucasfilm Ltd v Ainsworth [2011] UKSC 39, [2012] 1 AC 208


Case citations may look quite different depending on several factors:

  • In 2001 neutral citations were introduced, citations before then will not have this element.
  • OSCOLA uses round brackets ( ) or square brackets [ ] depending on whether the year is needed to help you to locate a report.
  • Some reports need to differentiate between different divisions of a court, and this will involve extra information in the citation that you might not see in others.
  • Some cases are not reported (published) and elements may be 'missing'.


Use of italics

Case names are italicised if they are mentioned in text  or in the footnotes. They are not italicised in the bibliography or table of cases.


Cases: Choosing which Law Report

A law report is a record of a judicial decision on a point of law which sets a precedent.

There is a recognised order of seniority for case reporting:

  1. ”The” Law Reports: Text is approved by the judge hearing the case before publication
    • Queen's Bench (QB) , Chancery (Ch), Family (Fam), Appeals Court (AC)
  2. Weekly Law Reports: (WLR) and  All England Law Reports: (All ER)
  3. Specialist Law Reports: see the Cardiff Index

For further information about law reports and see:

Knowles J and Thomas PA, Effective Legal Research (4th edn, Sweet & Maxwell 2016)

Unreported Cases

Not all cases get published in the reports listed above, or in specialist reports.

If a case is unreported but has a neutral citation, give that. If an unreported case does not have a neutral citation (for example, all cases 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’

Finding Law Reports (Cases)

The below databases contain information about cases, legislations, journals and current awareness.

Here is a list of the content they include, related to cases and law reports specifically.


  • All England Reports (ALL ER) can be found in Lexis Library
  • Weekly Law Reports (WLR) can be found in Westlaw

Referencing Cases From 2001 and onwards

A case reference is made up of several parts. There is also a difference between English cases before 2001, and from 2001 when neutral citations were introduced.

Full citation of English cases from 2001 include:

  1. Case name (or party names) 
  2. Neutral citation
  3. Law report citation

Example 1.

R v Barnes [2004] EWCA Crim 3246, [2005] 1 WLR 910


1. R v Barnes 2. [2004] EWCA Crim 3246, 3. [2005] 1 WLR 910

Example 2.

R v Rogers [2007] UKHL 8, [2007] AC 62


1. R v Rogers  2. [2007] UKHL 8, 3. [2007] AC 62

The court abbreviation in a neutral citation always starts with UK (for United Kingdom) or EW (for England and Wales). This will help you to identify which part is the neutral citation.

Referencing Cases - Before 2001

Official neutral citations do not exist for cases before 2001.

Note: if you have used BAILII, you will see neutral citations for older cases which BAILII have assigned retrospectively, but these are unofficial neutral citations and would not be used in OSCOLA referencing.

Full citation of English cases from 2001 typically includes:

  1. Case name (or party names) 
  2. Law report citation
  3. The name of the court where the case was heard, put in brackets


Example  1.

Donoghue v Stevenson [1932] AC 562 (HL)


1. Donoghue v Stevenson 2. [1932] AC 562  3. (HL)

Example 2.

R v Bailey (1983) 77 Cr App R 76 (CA)


1. R v Bailey 2. (1983) 77 Cr App R 76  3.(CA)

Square Brackets vs Round Brackets

The year of publication will be in square brackets [ ] if this information is essential for helping you to find the volume. The year of publication will be in round brackets ( ) if there is a separate volume number which helps you to locate the report.

Since many reports are now accessed online, this differentiation may not be as important as it might once have been. If you are accessing reports online through a database, check the database version of the citation to see whether it uses square or round brackets for the year. Note: the layout of the full citation in databases may not necessarily follow the required format for OSCOLA.

In-text Citations and Footnotes: Cases

Example of footnote superscript numbering in text:

The sum is a reasonable royalty paid in exchange for the "use" made of the rights and the relevant principles to be applied were articulated by H.H. Judge Hacon in Henderson v All Around the World.44 This method derives from Wrotham Park v Parkside Estates,45 ...


Example of related footnote entries:

44 Henderson v All Around the World Recordings Ltd [2014] EWHC 3087 (IPEC) at [18]–[19].

45Wrotham Park Estate Co Ltd v Parkside Homes Ltd [1974] 1 WLR 798 Ch D.


Note: According to OSCOLA 4th Edition, it is not necessary to include the case name if it has already been included in the body of the text. So it could also look like this:

44 [2014] EWHC 3087 (IPEC) at [18]–[19].

45 [1974] 1 WLR 798 Ch D.

Informtion adapted from:

Marshall J, 'Account of profit for infringement of intellectual property rights' (2018) EIPR 40(4) 260.

First reference and subsequent references

When referering to a publication for the first time, you should provide a full reference. After this, you can use the abbreviated form of the source title. If a second footnote to the same source follows directly, you can use 'ibid' instead with any additional information if needed, such as information about which paragraph is being referred to.

If the footnote does not directly follow a previous citation of the same source, then write the short form of the name and a cross-citation to the full citation.

For example, in the below, footnote 49 is a cross-refereence to footnote 44, indicates by the "(n 44)"

44 Henderson v All Around the World Recordings Ltd [2014] EWHC 3087 (IPEC) at [18]–[19].

45 ibid [20].


49 Henderson (n 44).


  • A pinpoint is a reference to a particular paragraph of a judgment or page of a report or source, or a paragraph number.
  • If you quote or paraphrase a source, you should include the page number or paragraph number.
  • If you are referring to separate paragraphs, separate them with a comma (see example 1 below.).
  • If you are citing spans of paragraph, insert a dash between the two paragraph numbers (see example 2).
  • The same apply to page numbers, but you would not use brackets (see example 3).


Pinpointing examples in footnotes

1. Lucasfilm Ltd v Ainsworth [2011] UKSC 39, [2012] 1 AC 208 [42],[44]. 
2. Lucasfilm Ltd v Ainsworth [2011] UKSC 39, [2012] 1 AC 208 [42]-[44].
3. Joelle Grogan, ‘Rights and Remedies at Risk: Implications of the Brexit Process on the Future of Rights in the UK’ [2019] PL 683, 686-687.​


When to use pinpointing

Footnotes should include the pinpoint reference to identify the exact page, paragraph number (for cases), section, regulation or article (for legislation) which contain the ideas you are quoting or paraphrasing. If you are referring to a general argument, you may choose to refer to a journal article or book, rather than to a precise page. The same applied to cases: if you are using a case as an authority on a point of law or an application of law on a scenario, a general reference is enough.


Finding page numbers

Databases such as WestLaw and Lexis Library will give an indicator of the page numbers. Lexis Library displays this information in grey text; WestLaw will display an  half green icon with an asterisk (*) and the page number .

Example from Westlaw:

 Westlaw will show an icon half colour in green with an asterisk and page number.