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A Law Report suitable for the Internet Age

By: Mark Tottenham BL

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Particularly astute readers will notice that Law Ireland has moved to a new publisher. For nearly three years, it has been published by Wordwell Books Ltd, the publisher of journals such as History Ireland and Books Ireland. I would like to give my thanks to Nick Maxwell and Ronan Colgan and all the team at Wordwell Books for the support they have given this journal since its foundation.

Now Law Ireland has moved to Clarus Press, which has a distinguished record of publishing legal textbooks. Everybody at Decisis and Law Ireland is excited about this change of direction, and it is hoped that this will attract more readers to the work that we do.

Decisis was founded in 2011, and now has an online database of almost 9,000 reports of judgments of the Irish superior courts. Since Decisis was founded, we have worked on developing a new type of law report that is suitable for the internet age. While traditional law reports continue to have their place, we believe that they have their limitations.

Until very recently, judgments were hard to come by. They were only available in print, and kept in specialised law libraries. For many practitioners, it was easier to access an official report of a judgment than the original ‘unreported’ text.

Now, almost every judgment is available for free to the whole world, often from the day of delivery in court. This means that, for most readers, it is not necessary for the full text to be prepared along side the official ‘report’. A digest or ‘headnote’ can be provided in the knowledge that the reader can access the text of the original judgment with a few clicks of a mouse.

The headnotes of official law reports are thoroughly prepared, in the expectation that they will be definitive. The result is that they can take months - if not years - to become available. In the mean time, if a particularly influential judgment is delivered, the legal profession will have relied extensively on the ‘unreported’ version.

Furthermore, only a fraction of the judgments delivered are the subject of official reports. It may be that some judgments do not warrant a report. Official law reports tend towards decisions that rely on legal argument rather than a difference of facts. It may be observed, however, that no case is without some value as a precedent. Each case has different facts, and each judge approaches cases in a slightly different way.

Having said this, the number of judgments delivered by the Irish superior courts has risen dramatically over the past nine years. In 2011, there were about 650 judgments delivered. In 2018, there were about 1,400. Some topics are more likely to be the subject of written judgments. Of the 217 judgments reported in this issue, 53 concern asylum and immigration cases, 15 concern criminal sentencing, and 16 concern personal injuries.

At Decisis and Law Ireland, we like to use the tag-line: “Comprehensive, Current and Clear”. We aim to continue to report all new judgments of the Irish superior courts, within days of their delivery, and as readably and succinctly as possible. We hope that we are providing this service in a manner that is of use to our readers, but as we enter a new chapter in the development of this publication, we would welcome any feedback or suggestions as to how it could be improved.

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