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Westlaw: How to use Westlaw

How to access the Westlaw database service and use it to find: case law, legislation, journal articles and more. This also includes information about how to access international materials on Westlaw.

Westlaw Legislation Search

Westlaw includes in force UK / English Public General Acts and SIs from 1267 onwards. Acts of the Scottish Parliament and SSIs are available from 1999 onwards. In force acts of the pre-1707 Scottish Parliament are also available. Legislation found through a standard search incorporates amendments. Historic versions of statutes are available from 1991 onwards. Many Acts which are no longer in force are also available in their originally enacted text.

You can search 'Primary & Secondary Legislation' (Acts and SIs), 'Bills & Draft Legislation' and 'Policy & Guidance' from different tabs.

You can access the Legislation search from the Welcome page. Select the ‘Legislation’ link at the top of the screen.

This takes you to the search page, where you can search 'Primary & Secondary Legislation' by  'Title', 'Provision Number' and 'Free Text' terms.

Follow the link to 'More options' for additional search options, including searching by 'Subject/Keyword' terms or 'Statutory Definition' - as well as specifying whether you wish to retrieve historic law, prospective law or legislation in force at a specified point in time.

Once you have retrieved legislation, you can use 'Provision Details' and other supplementary material to check the status of legislation - including whether it has come into force, whether it has been amended or repealed, its jurisdictional extent and whether it has been cited in case law.

Westlaw Legislation - training video

How to find Legislation on Westlaw by title and provision number

e.g. Criminal Law (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 1995 s 47 or Beer Regulations 1993, SI 1993/1228

You can search by the title of an act or statutory instrument under the 'Primary & Secondary Legislation' tab (default).

Enter the title and year in the ‘Title’ box.

You can also search for SIs by year and number (e.g. 2006/1096) using the 'Title' box.

To specify a particular provision (e.g. section), select the provision type from the drop-down menu and enter the number in the ‘Provision Number’ box. (To search for terms occurring in a piece of legislation enter these in the ‘Free Text’ box.)

Select ‘Search’ to display results.

Search Results - Westlaw Legislation

The results list for a search by title displays the title(s) of legislation together.  (Results for a search which included a free text term or provision number may display direct links to individual provisions.) To view legislation select the title (e.g. Children (Scotland) Act 1995 c.36).

The next screen displays the 'Arrangement of Act' (or SI), this lists the provisions of the legislation. The left column contains links to the ‘Act Details’ (or 'SI Details'), Primary References' and 'Commentary References’, which provide information about amendments, commencement and subordinate legislation and supplementary information.

After following a link to an individual provision, the right frame displays the provision and in the left frame are additional links to ‘Provision Details’ (including a 'Table of Amendments', and information about 'Commencement', territorial 'Extent'), 'Primary References' (details of any cases or legislation citing the provision) and 'Commentary References' (Books or Journal Articles on Westlaw, which cite the provision).

Legislation retrieved is the revised version, for historic versions use the ‘Advanced Search’. (You can also see previous versions and prospective versions by selecting these (e.g. Version 5) to the right of the provision's text.)

To view an entire Act select the PDF icon from the bar to the right of the ‘Arrangement of Act’ or individual provision screen.

Checking the status of legislation on Westlaw


Individual Provision

From the provision record follow the link to ‘Provision Details’. Under ‘Commencement’ the date the section came into force is noted with details of relevant commencement provisions. If the provision is not in force this will be noted, for example, ‘Date to be appointed (not yet in force)’.

Entire Act

Commencement information for the entire act can be viewed by selecting ‘Act Details’ and then 'Commencement'.

N.B. Westlaw does not give complete commencement information for acts prior to 1991.

Repeals or amendments

The default 'Primary & Secondary Legislation' search retrieves in force legislation. The version you see incorporates repeals (or revocations) and amendments.

Individual Provision

Within the provision, text inserted by amending legislation is indicated by the text appearing within square brackets and repealed text is indicated by a series of dots in square brackets […]. Footnotes indicate the repealing/amending legislation.

Within the 'Provision Details', the ‘Table of Amendments’ allows you to view previous versions of the provision. Alternatively, select the version in the bar to the right of the text of the provision (e.g. Version 5) to view previous versions. Any version of a provision which has been amended is indicated as such with Superseded together with the dates the version was in force to the right of the text.

N.B. Detailed information is only available for amendments/repeals made in the period since information was uploaded to Westlaw (in 1991). However, amendments prior to that date are incorporated into in force legislation.

Territorial extent

From the individual provision record, follow the link to ‘Provision Details’ (in the left frame). Under ‘Extent’ the territorial extent of the provision (e.g. UK, England & Wales, Scotland) is noted.

Cited in case law

You can find out whether a provision has been judicially considered, interpreted, or otherwise cited in case law under 'Primary References' .

From the provision select 'Primary References'. Under ‘Key Cases Citing’ and 'All Cases Citing' you can see lists of any cases citing the legislation.

Tip: You can also find information about cases citing a legislative provision by using the Cases search and selection 'More options'. In the 'Legislation Title' enter the title of the act and then select the provision type (section, regulation etc.) from the 'Legislation Provision No.' dropdown and enter the number in the box.

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