British and Irish Legal Information Institute

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"Bailii" redirects here. For Zygosaccharomyces bailii, see Zygosaccharomyces bailii. For the French king's administrative representative, see Bailli.
Web address
Slogan Access to Freely Available British and Irish Public Legal Information
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Type of site
Legal database

The British and Irish Legal Information Institute (BAILII, pronounced /bl/ "Bailey") provides legal information, and especially reports of cases decided by courts, in the United Kingdom generally. Decisions from England and Wales, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, the European Union, and from the European Court of Human Rights are put online. It is a partial on-line database of British and Irish legislation, case law, law reform reports, treaties and some legal scholarship.[1][2]


Traditionally, legal information was accessible through a law report, usually written by private individuals or groups. While court judgments have had official reports more recently, historically a court judgment would simply be spoken, and so publication of the precedents built up depended on their record by interested third parties. The Year Books, which recorded judgments from 1268 to 1535, were probably compiled by law students. Other people, like the judge Sir Edward Coke from 1572 to 1615, then created their own series of reports. These would not necessarily be an accurate record of what was said. What was recorded might have been selective, or inaccurate. As the reporting industry developed, more people became involved and specialised in particular areas of law. The Incorporated Council of Law Reporting was created in 1885, and released copies of various cases. There still could be gaps in reporting however. With the advent of the Internet, it was possible to access multiple databases for a fee online, particularly Westlaw or Lexis. However a freely available source had not yet been made.

Bailii was set up after a long and hard campaign by various activists including senior members of the Society for Computers & Law, such as then-Chairman Neil Cameron, barrister Laurie West-Knights QC, Lord Saville and Lord Justice Brooke, who were concerned about the lack of availability of court judgments to ordinary court users and were inspired by the Australasian Legal Information Institute (AustLII) LII.[3] The aim was to provide free access to publicly available legal information.[1] In 2006, BAILII included 5 jurisdictions' fourteen databases.[4] The BAILII website is jointly hosted by the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, University of London and the University College Cork's Law school[1]

Case citations[edit]

Bailii created a "neutral citation" method, which was quickly adopted as a standard for citation of cases. The different series of cases that Bailii produces are as follows.

Abbreviation Bailii series
UKSC United Kingdom Supreme Court
UKHL United Kingdom House of Lords
UKPC United Kingdom Privy Council
EWCA Civ England and Wales Court of Appeal, Civil Division
EWCA Crim England and Wales Court of Appeal, Criminal Division
EWHC England and Wales High Court

Limitations of BAILII[edit]

BAILII provides online access to much case law, but with some limitations:

  • It does not allow indexing by search engines[5]
  • It does not provide bulk downloads for those requiring large amounts of case law
  • It attempts to require that one only link to certain URLs through a terms of use[6]
  • It disallows the use of robots or scrapers, particularly for bulk downloads[5]

It therefore does not provide much of the value that true open access to case law would, particularly computation analysis of law or the creation of tools for exploring case law. BAILII is privileged in having free access to much case law.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "About BAILII". British and Irish Legal Information Institute. Retrieved 24 February 2011. 
  2. ^ Valedictory Address for Lord Justice Brooke [2006] EWCA Civ B1 (16 August 2006)(see ¶ 18)
  3. ^ "BAILII (British and Irish Legal Information Institute)". University of Leicester. Retrieved 24 February 2011. 
  4. ^ a b "BAILII's attempt to impose terms of use through copyright". 
  5. ^ "BAILII attempt to impose linking policy". 

External links[edit]