Referencing for Lawbies

Pic of law reports

This section broadly covers the topics of how to cite texts, format references, and how to avoid plagiarism. These things are all related because the best way to prevent plagiarism is always to properly reference!

For those who do not know what plagiarism is, below are some links from different law schools in Hong Kong on the topic.

Academic Honesty - a City U guide

What is plagiarism? a Chinese University of Hong Kong guide

Plagiarism - a University of Hong Kong English Centre guide

Plagiarism - a University of Hong Kong guide

One additional point to note is that during a written exam, you are rarely expected to give “perfect” citations. Your course leader will let you know what level of reference he/she expects from students in such exams.

So with that in mind, let's get started...

OSCOLA & other citation methods

The Oxford University Standard for Citation of Legal Authorities (OSCOLA) is the most common citation method that universities in Hong Kong adopt for student assignments.

A quick reference guide of the OSCOLA is provided below.

OSCOLA Quick Reference
[Alternative PDF download]

However, it is VERY important that you go through the full version of the OSCOLA guide in order to truly master this citation method: Full OSCOLA PDF guide

Hierarchy of Law Reports

The judgments of cases (important ones) are usually published in law reports. It is important to understand the hierarchy of law reports so that you can provide the appropriate citations.

(i) Quick guide

Here is a quick summary for you:

In UK:

#1 Official Law Reports (e.g. Appeal Cases (AC), Queen’s Bench (QB), Chancery (Ch), Family (Fam))
#2 Weekly Law Reports (WLR)
#3 All England Law Reports (All ER)
#3 Specialist Reports (e.g. STC, LRCC, IRLR, BCLC, BHRC, All ER (EC), All ER Comm, LGR, BMLR, FCR, Con LR, IR&T)
#4 Official Transcript

In Hong Kong:

#1 Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal Report (HKCFAR)
#2 The Authorised Hong Kong Law Report and Digest (HKLRD)
#3 Hong Kong Case (HKC)
#4 Specialist Law Reports (e.g. CPR, HKCLR, HKFLR, IRBRD, HKPLR, HKRC, HKTC)
#5 Unreported Judgment (Unrep)

 

(ii) How are law reports different from one another?

Weekly law reports

In United Kingdom:

The Official Law Reports are published by the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting.

Appeal Cases (AC)

Include judgments from the Supreme Court, House of Lords, Privy Council and the Court of Justice of European Union

Queen’s Bench (QB), Chancery (Ch), Family (Fam)

These are the three branches in the High Court.

Includes mainly the judgments from different branches of the High Court and occasionally the judgments from District Court and tribunals

The Weekly Law Reports (WLR) are also published by the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting

These are published more quickly the Official Law Reports

Includes judge-checked judgment and counsel’s arguments

Access through Westlaw

All England Law Reports (All ER) are published by Butterworths Lexis

Published before the Official Law Reports

Includes judgments with counsel’s arguments

One big advantage is that all ERs have cross references to Halsbury’s Law and Halsbury’s Statues because they are both published by Butterworths Lexis

Access through Lexis.com

Specialist Reports

Cited only when the case is not reported in the aforementioned reports (Official Law Reports, WLR and All ER)

Tip: to unpick the abbreviations of these specialist reports, you may turn to Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations.

Look at this website from the University of Oxford that shows the hierarchy of UK law reports in detail.

Official transcripts

Cited only when a relevant statement of legal principle is not found in a reported case

Exception: when the judgment is not yet published in any law reports.

Access through the website of British and Irish Legal Information Institute (BAILII), the Supreme Court and the Judiciary.

 

Hongkong flag

 

In Hong Kong:

Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal Reports (HKCFAR) published by Sweet & Maxwell Asia

Includes CFA’s judgments with legislation mentioned and cases cited

Access through Westlaw Asia

The Authorised Hong Kong Law Reports and Digest (HKLRD) published by Sweet & Maxwell Asia

It was the incorporation of the Hong Kong Law Digest and Hong Kong Law Reports (HKLR, 1906-1996)

Includes judgments of reported cases and digests of additional cases.

Access through Westlaw Asia

Hong Kong Case (HKC) published by Butterworths Asia

Includes selected decision of Hong Kong courts and appeals made to the CFA

Includes judgments with legislation mentioned and cases cited

Access through Lexis.com

Specialist Law Reports

Cited only when the case is not reported in the aforementioned reports (HKCFAR, HKLRD, HKC)

Tips: to understand the abbreviations of these specialist reports, you may turn to Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations.

Unreported Judgment (Uprep)

Cited only when a relevant statement of legal principle is not found in a reported case

Exception: when the judgment is not yet published in any law reports

Access through the Judiciary website (Judgment > search with Case Number)

Citation of cases

(i) Party or case names

Pic of law report

Party or case names:

  • Should be in italic
  • In case of multi-parties, name only the first claimant and first defendant with their surnames.
  • Abbreviated terms can be used. e.g. Kelsen v Imperial Tobacco Co. Ltd, Elitestone Ltd v Morris and another [‘and another’ indicates that there is more than one defendant]

 

 

(ii) How to cite a reported case?

Name of case

Year

Volume

Abbreviation
of series

First page
of report

Court

Carlill v Carbolic Smoke Ball Co

[1893]

1

QB

256

(CA)

Donoghue v Stevenson

[1932]

 

AC

562

(HL Sc)

W v Registar of Marriages

(2013)

16

HKCFAR

112

(CFA)

Chan Kin Sum v Secretary of Justice

(2009)

2

HKLRD

166

(CFI)

 

From above, you may notice that for two of the cases we use square brackets for year while two use round brackets. Square brackets are used when the series of law reports does not have consecutive volume number. Round brackets, on the other hand, is for law reports which have consecutive volume number.

 

(iii) How to cite an unreported case?

For UK cases:

Name of Case

Year

Abbreviation
of Court

Judgment
Number

High Court Division

University of Oxford v Broughton

[2008]

EWHC

75

(QB)

Jameel v Wall Street Journal Europe

[2006]

UKHL

44

 

 

For HK cases:

Name of Case

(Abbreviation
of case type

Case number

Judgment date

AM v Director of Immigration & Anor

HCAL

102/2012

20 November 2013

Chow Tin Sang v Citihero International Ltd

HCA

2315/2009

4 May 2012

Note: for the Abbreviation of case type, please refer to http://legalref.judiciary.gov.hk/lrs/common/help/hlptopic.htm for guidance.

 

(iv) How to quote a particular paragraph or page of a judgement?

When paragraph number is given use square brackets to indicate the paragraph number at the end of the citation.

[28] means from paragraph 28; [28]-[32] means from para 28 to 32; [28], [32] means only paragraph 28 and paragraph 32.

When no paragraph number is available

Indicate the page number at the end of the citation.

E.g. Leigh v Taylor [1901] 1 Ch 523 (CA) 530 means page 530

How to cite precedents / legislation while answering a legal problem question

Pic of law report

For a more detailed explanation of citing, take a look at the Legal English in Hong Kong site, which covers precedents and legislation.