The burden of proofs: why accuracy matters

The published law reports in ICLR’s main subscription series are proof-read by at least three people, before being sent for approval by the judges on whose judgments they are based. So you can rest assured that our reports are as accurate, as a record of what the court considered and decided, as is humanly possible.

Accuracy is a key to everything we do. Our Mission Statement includes five Values, one of which is:

Trust – we are trusted to deliver the highest standards of accurate and authoritative law reporting.

A common criticism of the various commercially speculative reporting series which flourished unchecked before the foundation of the Council of Law Reporting in 1865 was their “want of accuracy”. Lord Denman CJ, memorably commented on one unhappy series launched in the late 18th century, that he was

tempted to remark for the benefit of the profession that Espinasse’s Reports, in days nearer their own time, when their want of accuracy was better known than it is now, were never quoted without doubt and hesitation…

We don’t know how the benighted Isaac Espinasse, whose six volumes of reports covered cases from 1793 to 1807, tried to ensure that any citations in the judgments were properly attributed and accurately quoted from, word for word, but we are fairly sure they weren’t as rigorous as our own.

Each judgment is checked by the reporter, by a desk editor, and by a series editor or sub-editor (or both) to ensure that the law is accurately cited, that all case references are correct, that quoted matter is accurately set out, word for word, and that the text of the judgment makes grammatical sense.

Case citations are given the best publication reference according to the relevant practice directions and consistently with ICLR’s own indexing house style. Where legislation has been amended or provisions inserted, the relevant amending legislation is identified, to ensure the version relied upon in the decision is correctly recorded. Official documents such as parliamentary papers, Law Commission reports, local authority guidance etc, are all checked at source and given their official citation reference. Textbooks are checked for edition number, date of publication, page or paragraph references and so forth.

Once the case has been proof-read by the reporter, by the desk editor, and by the sub-editor and/or series editor, a ‘judge’s proof’ is issued and sent for approval by the judge or judges who gave judgment.

Where there is uncertainty about a citation or quotation, a note is sent to the judge with the proof, alerting the court to the possible need for a correction. (This may result in a corrected version of the official transcript subsequently being circulated by the court to other publishers and websites.)

Those cases appearing in The Law Reports which include a summary of counsel’s argument will also have been sent to counsel for approval.

The procedure is slightly different in the UK Supreme Court, where the reporters proof-read the judgment in advance of its delivery. The judges do not see them again before they are published (with the smallest possible delay after delivery), in The Weekly Law Reports or one of the specialist series. However, for those cases being published in The Law Reports, proofs are re-circulated to the judges, after further editing, prior to final publication.