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Using Halsbury's Laws

Halsbury’s Laws of England is a multi-volume encyclopaedia, covering the whole corpus of English and Welsh law. It is kept up to date by an annual cumulative supplement, a monthly current service, and the periodic replacement of entire individual volumes by reissue. At present Halsbury’s is slowly transitioning from the 4th Edition to the 5th Edition so you may find a mixture of these on the shelf.

To find cases by subject using Halsbury’s, you need to use the Consolidated Index (Volume 55, A-H, or Volume 56, I-Z). Subjects are arranged in this Index by both broad and specific entries, so for example, to find cases and/or legislation regarding dangerous dogs, you might search under the broader topic of ANIMALS, and then find the sub-topic ‘dangerous’ and then the further sub-topic ‘dog’. This would cross-refer you to the entry for DOG, where you would find entries for ‘dangerous dogs’ amongst others relating to dogs.

It is best to start with a specific search, but if this is not successful, try to think of alternative broader terms that might apply.

Once you have found an entry for the subject you are interested in, make a note of the numbers listed against that entry. The first number in bold refers to the volume and the subsequent number to paragraph. Use this information to look the relevant volume, which will provide a paragraph summarising the area of law and in the notes field details of any relevant cases or legislation.

It may also be necessary to check whether any changes have been made to that area of the law since the volume in question was issued. Laws can often change extremely quickly, and it takes time for volumes to be overhauled and reissued.

To ensure the information you have found is still accurate, first check the Cumulative Supplement volumes – find the pages for the relevant volume of Halsbury’s (these are all listed at the top of each page in the supplement), then look up the paragraph number in the list in bold down the side of the page.

If the paragraph you are looking for is listed, this means changes have been made since the Halsbury’s volume was originally printed – these changes or amendments, new cases or new legislation will by listed. If the paragraph number does not appear then no changes have been made.

The Cumulative Supplement updates the information about an area of law to the previous December. To update the search to the current month, consult the Noter-up. The Noter-up is located in the Current Service Binder. It is necessary to turn to the right section in the binder and then look up the main work volume reference and paragraph number again using the same method as the Cumulative Supplement. Any changes made since last December will be listed.

Quick Guide to Halsbury's Laws