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British and Irish Legal Information Institute - BAILII [Website of the Week]

 

The British and Irish Legal Information Institute (BAILII) provides free online access to British and Irish public legal information including case law, legislation and materials produced by the Law Commissions. BAILII is hosted by the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, London and the Law Faculty, University College Cork
 
Content
BAILII holds material from Scotland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland, the UK, and Ireland, as well as some European (ECJ and ECtHR) material.
 
Case Law:
Content includes decisions of:
  • the Court of Session, High Court of Justiciary, and the Sheriff Court,
  • the House of Lords, and the Privy Council,
  • the High Court and Court of Appeal in England and Wales,
  • the Court of Justice and Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland,
  • the Supreme Court of Ireland, and
  • other courts and tribunals including the European Court of Justice, the European Court of Human Rights.
Generally speaking, coverage begins in 1996 although some notable cases from before that date are available. However, there are few Scottish cases decided prior to 1999, few Northern Irish cases decided prior to 2000 and reasonably comprehensive coverage of Irish Supreme Court cases only begins in 2001. Coverage of decisions from the E&W High Court is restricted due issues of copyright.
 
Legislation:
Content includes:
  • UK primary legislation and S.I.s,
  • Acts of the Scottish Parliament and S.S.I.s,
  • Welsh S.I.s,
  • Northern Irish statutes, Orders in Council and Statutory Rules, and
  • Irish primary legislation and S.I.s.
This material includes the full text of unrevised UK statutes from 1988 onwards and the full text of  revised Primary legislation as held on the UK Statute Law Database. In this way, the content reproduces legislation available on other official sites.
 
Browsing
Databases are grouped by jurisdiction e.g. Scotland, England and Wales, UK, etc. and subdivided by material type (e.g. Scottish Case Law, Scottish Legislation, Other Scottish Material) which is comprised of individual databases (e.g. Court of Session decisions, High Court of Justiciary Decisions, Sheriff Court decisions).
Within each database, content can be searched or browsed (e.g. by year or alphabetically by case name / legislation title).
Therefore if you know jurisdiction and material type, it is straightforward to browse BAILII’s content.
 
Searching
BAILII’s home page provides a ‘Basic Search’. This searches across all materials and can be limited by jurisdiction.
From the home page there are links to a ‘Case Law Search’, a ‘Legislation Search’ and an ‘Other Materials Search’. These allow focussed searching across specific types of material.
In addition, there is a link to an ‘Advanced Search’ where terms can be searched for across specific databases. This search screen provides clear instructions on how to connect terms in a search.
Search results can be sorted by title, jurisdiction, relevance or date.
 
Highlights
Free – BAILII is an free-to-access service and does not require a password.
‘One-stop-shop’ – BAILII allows access to a variety of legal materials from British and Irish jurisdictions through a single interface.
Currency – case transcripts are often received hours after they are handed down and can be processed quickly. Therefore BAILII is an important source of unreported cases and transcripts.
Help – BAILII provides links to help on specific searches as well as a list of frequently asked questions.
Expansion – work continues at BAILII to increase the content available. This includes the adding of historic materials such as important older cases and the inclusion of secondary sources.
 
Conclusion
While much material held on BAILII is available from other free online sources, this site draws this together in one place. BAILII cannot compete with the content and functionality of major commercial legal database services, but offers a usable source of legal information free-of-charge to those without access to commercial services. As such, it is part of a wider movement to enable free access to law.
 

Filed under: Legislation, Case Law, Open Access Services

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