Statute (Act) [from Electronic source using APA 5th ed.]


Because the situation regarding legal references is complex, and only US law is covered in the APA Manual, the following guidance is based on the system recommended by the Institute of Criminal Justice Studies. It should not be followed by any student submitting work to the Law Department of Portsmouth Business School, and students working in other departments should consult their lecturers.

A statute is also known as an Act of Parliament.

The text of electronic and print versions will be identical, therefore there is no need to give details of the origin of the source you have used.

When using legislation in your work you must be clear as to whether or not you are dealing with the law as it was passed by Parliament initially, or the law as in force currently.

When looking at legislation online, you should rely on trusted sources such as The Office of Public Sector Information or the British and Irish Legal Information Institute. However, these sites give the law as it was passed and do not reflect repeals and amendments. Even the Statute Law Database is currently only up to date as far as 2002 with its amendments. It is better to use a database such as Lexis Library or Westlaw as you will find that the text you are looking at is consolidated and includes amendments and repeals to within the last month. This means you will be looking at the law as in force.

Standard Form

Statutes are not included in reference lists at all. However, if you wish to adopt a consistent policy throughout and are using one source for all your references a rider in your reference list could clarify the fact that you have used an electronic source for law and what type of source it is.

e.g. All statutes cited are as passed and references are taken from [title e.g. British and Irish Legal Information Institute] website.


All statutes referred to are as currently in force and have been sourced from the [name e.g. Westlaw] database.

or a similar statement.

Having done this the first citation of any act retrieved from a website would be cited in full as follows:

Short title as printed on cover of the act (including capitalisation as shown but with no italicization) Date (NB in the case of older acts this may be a regnal rather than a calendar date)

N.B. No comma should appear between the word Act and the date. As the text will be identical in both electronic (whatever format) and hardcopy and pinpoint references rely on internal numbering rather than page numbers it is unnecessary to identify the specific format in your citation.

Thereafter the short title or an accepted / recognised abbreviation of it can be used without the date, if there is no cause for confusion.

If you choose to abbreviate an statute's title by using initials you must show this when you first mention the statute and give the full reference in your citation, e.g.

Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 [HASWA]

could thereafter be referred to as HASWA.

The main aim in any citation is for clarity.


In an essay you would cite:

Licensing Act 2003

However older acts might be cited as

Crown Debts Act 1801 (14 Geo 3 c 90)

Citation in Text

When citing in text you need to pinpoint your specific reference within the statute. Rather than use page numbers, it is often easier to use the internal numbering of the statute itself.Clearly section 1 of the Criminal Damage Act 1971 makes it an offence to …

Clearly s 1 of the Criminal Damage Act 1971 makes it an offence to ...

If you want to refer to several sections at the same time then, for example, write

As sections 6 and 7 of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 state ...

As ss 6 and 7 of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 state ...

In the case of amended legislation, make the exact source quite clear, for example

Section 146 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, as amended by the Trade Union Reform and Employment Rights Act 1993, states ...


  • If there is any comparative aspect to your work, you need to be exceptionally careful to include the jurisdiction responsible. In the case of Scotland and Northern Ireland this usually appears within the title. Jurisdictions outside the United Kingdom may be specified in this way, but if not, you must make it absolutely clear to your reader which country's law you are referring to. In such cases it is clearer to precede United Kingdom acts with the designation Great Britain to clarify the jurisdiction, e.g. Great Britain Licensing Act 2003, Great Britain Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005, Licensing Act (Northern Ireland) 1971, Australia Liquor Act 1982 (NSW), Australia Liquor Act 1975 (ACT)
  • Always look at the domain in the Internet address (or URL) e.g. .ca indicates Canada, .nz indicates New Zealand for United Kingdom law the address should include .uk.