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Law: primary sources

This guide will assist you in identifying and searching primary sources of law.

Understanding case citations

About case citations

A case citation can refer to a "reported" or "unreported" full-text version of the case. A case may contain parallel citations, which means there is more than one full-text version of the case.

Reported cases are those that have been published in a law report series. Cases may be published in more than one report series.

Unreported judgments contain the text of the judgment but are not published in a law report series.

A case citation contains all the information needed to locate a particular case. The citation of a reported case refers to the law report series in which the judgment was published. An unreported citation identifies the case by reference to the court which decided the case. 

Understanding case citations

This is an example of a reported case citation:

Allen v Chadwick (2015) 256 CLR 148

 

The elements of the citation are:

Element Example Description
Case name Allen v Chadwick The parties to the case
Year (2015) The year in which the case was decided
Volume number 256 The volume number of the law report (not all reports have a volume number)
Law report abbreviation CLR The abbreviation of the law report title (in this instance it is the Commonwealth Law Reports)
Starting page number 148 The page number in the law report that this particular case starts

This is an example of an unreported case with a medium neutral citation:

R v Huni [2014] QCA 324

 

The elements of the citation are:

Element Example Description
Case name R v Huni The parties to the case
Year [2014] The year in which the case was decided
Court identifier QCA The unique identifier for the court, usually an abbreviation of the court or tribunal name (in this case it is the Supreme Court of Queensland - Court of Appeal)
Judgment number 324 The sequential judgment number for that year

 

Often a case will include parallel citations. A case should have an unreported version, and then it may also be reported in one or more law report series. Which case should you use and cite? A reported version of a case should be cited in preference to an unreported, and an authorised version of the report should always be used where available (see Rule 2.2.2 in the AGLC)

Tip - Use Lexis Advance to find the CaseBase record of a case. In CaseBase, citations are listed from most authoritative (left) to least authoritative (right).

In the screenshot below, for the case Western Australia v Ward, you should consult and cite the CLR (Commonwealth Law Reports) version of the case. The CLR is the authorised report series for the High Court of Australia. The HCA (High court of Australia) is the unreported decision.

  • To access the full-text version of a case, check out the Full-text A-Z list in this guide.