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United Kingdom Legal Research: Home

A guide to finding legal materials for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Introduction

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland consists of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.  This guide will provide an overview of sources of law for UK Law. The guide will not provide in-depth coverage of the laws enacted by the devolved governments of the UK.

The UK does not have a single written constitution comparable to the Constitution of the United States.  Instead, the constitutional law of the UK is comprised of statutes, cases, treaties and other materials. This has been referred to as an "uncodified" constitution.[1]

The primary sources of UK law are legislation and case law.  Primary legislation are statutes enacted by Parliament.[2]  Secondary or delegated legislation are rules, regulations and orders created under the authority of an act of Parliament.  These are also known as Statutory Instruments or SIs. [3] 

Devolution is the process whereby Parliament (Westminster) granted authority to Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland to govern local matters (e.g., health, education, the environment, transportation), reserving other matters to be legislated for the whole of the UK via Parliament (Westminster). [4] England and Wales share a judicial system, however Scotland and Northern Ireland each have separate judicial systems. [5]  The Scottish Independence Referendum vote "Should Scotland be an independent country?" will take place on September 18, 2014. [6]

As part of the European Union, the United Kingdom applies the laws of the EU, although the laws of the EU are not reprinted in full as part of the primary legislation and statutory instruments of the UK. Courts in the UK may refer questions of European Union law to the European Court of Justice, but UK courts remain responsible for applying EU law in Britain. [7]  

This research guide includes resources available to Pace Law Students through online subscription databases, free online resources, and through the Pace Law Library's collection of print and microform materials.

[1] What is the Constitution?, UCL Constitution Unit, School of Public Policy, http://www.ucl.ac.uk/constitution-unit/whatis/uk-constitution (last visited Sept. 6, 2014).

[2] Bills & Legislation, www.parliament.uk, http://www.parliament.uk/business/bills-and-legislation/ (last visited Sept. 6, 2014).

[3] Secondary Legislation, www.parliament.uk, http://www.parliament.uk/business/bills-and-legislation/secondary-legislation/ (last visited Sept 6, 2014).

[4] Devolution of Powers to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, GOV.UK,  https://www.gov.uk/devolution-of-powers-to-scotland-wales-and-northern-ireland (last visited Sept 6, 2014)

[5] UK Judicial System, The Supreme Court,  http://www.supremecourt.gov.uk/about/uk-judicial-system.html (last visited Sept 6, 2014).

[6] Scottish Independence, The Guardian, http://www.theguardian.com/politics/scottish-independence (last visited Sept. 6, 2014)

[7] The Supreme Court and Europe, The Supreme Court,  http://supremecourt.uk/about/the-supreme-court-and-europe.html (last visited Sept 6, 2014).

Research Guides for UK Law (Online)

Research Guides for UK Law - Print

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Vicky Gannon
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