Accessing the law

When we prepare written advice we are careful to refer to the law, so that our clients can see that the advice is soundly-based.  Accessing the law is no great problem:  much of the law of England and Wales is publicly available.  Our clients (and indeed the public at large) can refer to it if they wish.

Legislation can be found on the government website  You can find Acts by searching on their title.  The site also contains “delegated” legislation;  that is, the vast numbers of Rules, Regulations and Orders made under the authority of an Act, to provide for the commencement of the Act (often done by stages) or to fill out details, or make changes to the Act.  You can search for these “statutory instruments” (as they are known) by their title, or if you know it by their SI number, in the form 2022/1234.

If you search on “Public order”, confining the search to “UK Public General Acts”, you will get a list of five Acts with “Public order” in the title, one of which as been repealed (cancelled).  However, this does not mean that these Acts are exclusively concerned with public order (whatever that may mean); nor that there are no other Acts relevant to public order.  There is thus no simple way of obtaining all the legislation on a given subject.

Furthermore, legislation is very often amended as time goes by.  The legislation website sometimes — but not always — shows how a particular piece of legislation has been amended, or at least flags up to the fact that it has been amended.

Then there are cases in the higher courts which reach decisions on questions of law, which are then binding on lower courts.  There is a hierarchy:  above the High Court is the Court of Appeal, and above the Court of Appeal is the Supreme Court.  Decisions can be about the common law — the law developed by the courts over many years — or about the meaning of legislation.  Many of these cases can be found on the website of the excellent British and Irish Legal Information Institute,, which has a sophisticated search facility.

And there is also a great deal of published material about the law, in text-books and articles in journals and on the internet.

Accessing the law

Accessing the law is thus perfectly feasible;  though not straightforward, given the sheer amount and complexity of it.

But it requires an experienced lawyer to analyse the legal issues in a real case, and advise on the best course of action.  Real cases often involve an interplay of different legal issues, as well as conflicts about the facts.  So we would say to our clients that you are welcome to go back to the source materials and read the law for yourselves;  but we suggest that you should be cautious about drawing conclusions in the absence of legal advice.

—// —

FAQ // Ts & Cs