I am new to the field of law, focusing on common law (criminal only) in the jurisdiction of England & Wales.

I have searched the government legislation website for various acts, in this case the Computer Misuse Act 1990. It gives an overview, sentences (whether summary, either-way, or indictment), amendments etc...

With my limited understanding of law, I think that not everything is listed on that webpage, and in common law systems there is a focus on case law, that is prior decisions from judges? How would I find relevant case law for a specific act?

If I were a solicitor/barrister, would I also be able to search for more recent court cases where the Computer Misuse Act was applied, and quote from it? For example,

"Your Honour, just last month this same Computer Misuse Act was applied in Sunny Street Crown Court, and the judge stated X, Y, and Z which is surely applicable here?"

I have done some of my own research. For example, The Law Pages were a good resource for reading about recent cases, pleas, sentences given, and other high level information. There are also sentencing guidelines, which split offences up into categories, to help judges give consistent sentences.

I apologise if my question is a little bit all over the place, but I just want to understand the gist of how this works. I ask for self interest, not for any quotable academic purposes.

  • This is why law books and journals exist. You can search legal databases for where a case or law is mentioned, but if you want an analysis that tells you which is relevant and what the important points are, then consult the experts.
    – Stuart F
    May 21, 2022 at 16:32
  • @StuartF Could you recommend a legal database?
    – questioner
    May 21, 2022 at 18:34
  • I don’t know anything about UK case law databases. Google brought up caselaw.nationalarchives.gov.uk very quickly. I entered computer misuse and ransom (as an example) and it found 14 cases. May 22, 2022 at 0:29
  • @GeorgeWhite I stumbled upon that website actually, put since there were only 14 cases I assumed it was not a good source of information. One would assume several thousand get arrested per year for computer misuse offences.
    – questioner
    May 23, 2022 at 15:16
  • 2
    Does this answer your question? How to find case law for a particular subject
    – user43343
    Jul 14, 2022 at 15:05

2 Answers 2


1. You need to read and utilize law textbooks, the MOST UPDATED editione.

Try to access a library of a university that has a law faculty. Failing that, try a local library — but local libraries may not stock (pricey) law textbooks, or their most updated edns.

I scanned Jonathan Herring, Criminal Law Text Cases Materials (2020 9 edn), beneath for you. But the NEWEST edn is 2022, 10 edn, as at May 23 2022. Herring updates his book every 2 years.

Two other leading textbooks are Smith, Hogan, and Ormerod's Criminal Law (2021 16 edn), and Smith, Hogan, & Ormerod's Text, Cases, & Materials on Criminal Law (2020 13 edn).

2. Look up the Act of Parliament in the Table of Legislation. See scan beneath.

3. Finally, you shall find the cases expatiated in the body, and cited in the footnotes! See scan beneath.


Court reports, journals and databases

Unless there is a compelling reason (e.g. family law, children, national security) almost all written judgements are published by the courts.

These are collated into various searchable databases, some free and some commercial. Further, law journals publish articles summarising current case law, particularly when a new precedent is set.

While the task of legal research is far easier now than it was 10 or 20 years ago, it is still laborious and time intensive. One of the reasons charge so munch per hour is you have to pay for the non-billable hours where the lawyer is keeping themselves up to date.

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