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Case Law

How are Cases Cited?

Neutral citation is a unique court-assigned reference number for a judgment in a common law jurisdiction. Neutral generally refers to "vendor neutral” / “publisher neutral”. These decisions are not dependent, like traditional law reports, on the selection and editing of the text by a particular reporter or publisher.

A typical neutral citation is composed of the following three elements:

  • Year of the judgment
  • Jurisdiction and court
  • Unique case number in that year

Examples of Hong Kong and UK neutral citations:

Tse Henry Edward v Commissioner of Registration [2022] HKCFA 20.

Belhaj v Straw [2017] UKSC 3.

Further information about neutral citation and court abbreivations is available from the websites below.

Practice Direction 5.5 - Submission of Authorities (HKSAR, Judiciary Branch)

Neutral Citation (Incorporated Council of Law Reporting)

When published in a law report, a case is cited with the following elements:

  • Party names
  • Year the case was published
  • Volume of the law report
  • Law report abbreviation
  • Starting page of the case

See this example of a reported decision

Fung Kwok Ki v Wing Sang Construction Co Ltd & Others [2003] 3 HKLRD 201. 


A case published in law report is cited by the abbreivated title of law report. In order to search the law report, one must first identify the full title of the law report. These resources are useful in finding what the abbreviation stands for, that is, the full title of the law report.

Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations

D Raistrick, Index to Legl Citations and Abbreviations (4th edn, Sweet and Maxwell 2013).