Just like you would use quotations and textual evidence for an English essay, the core of a Legal Studies essay are cases, legislation, media, international instruments and documents. However, relevant HSC Legal Studies Cases are especially important.
Although unlike English, there’s little advice or consensual guidance on how to locate and analyse them.
Moreover, finding cases for HSC Legal Studies requires you to keep updated on major legal developments regarding your topic – so independent research is crucial.
Thus, finding relevant HSC Legal Studies Cases is pivotal for your responses!
But don’t worry! We’ll help you how to research HSC Legal Studies cases and ensure you’re using them effectively to write long answer responses.
The main thing to remember is that cases are used to prove how the law applies ‘in action’ – essentially, how the law has functioned in practice regarding particular individuals or groups.
We’ll be using the following essay question from the 2015 NESA Legal Studies paper to follow the process of how you would come to use a case in constructing your response for HSC Legal Studies:
“To what extent does the criminal investigation process balance the rights of victims, suspects and society?”
Step 1: Identify the topic
First of all, deconstruct the question. You can do this by highlighting the key terms like this:
This is so you can figure out what content you are required to analyse.
Judging from key words, this question is from the ‘The criminal investigation process’.
Therefore, we’ll be using any cases that fall under the following umbrella:
This has been taken directly from the syllabus and helps set a parameter for your essay, outlining exactly what you’ll be expected to analyse.
Step 2: Picking HSC Legal Studies Cases
Textbooks do have HSC Legal Studies cases, so it’s possible to find landmark cases in there.
These will be old cases that mark major legal changes, but you shouldn’t rely solely on those. A lot of your marks come from your understanding of current legal processes.
Finding cases online is usually the best method, because it’s accessible, and keeps up to date with current laws.
Most of the time, your teacher will be providing you with handouts in class that are media articles or reports. The best thing to do is always underline/highlight specific cases that are referenced. This way, you’re building a ‘HSC Legal Studies case arsenal’ to use in your essays.
Any cases that explain the criminal investigation process from the syllabus areas have been highlighted in the image above, and have to do with the rights of “victims, suspects and society” will be ideal.
Write a list of cases that reveal the reality of the investigation process i.e. “how does the law actually affect real people?”
If you have no cases in mind, consider using a case citator, which allows you to search by topic.
The NSW State Library has a page which lists the three most prominent citators:
It is also recommended that you use Legal Information Access Centre (LIAC) by the NSW State Library if you want to find extra cases. Unfortunately, this site no longer updates as of July 2014, but still has relatively up to date material, especially on their blog. You can search for your specific topic on the website to find relevant information.
For this example, I found the case of Haneef v Minister for Immigration and Citizenship (2007) FCA
Step 3: Research
Austlii is the largest public legal database in Australia. They provide legislation, cases (court judgements) and reports.
It updates regularly, and you should be able to find the full transcript of most of the cases you’ve chosen.
NSW CaseLaw also has publications of court findings.
Step 4: Legal issues
You will need to identify what the legal ramifications of that case was. For our question, what does Haneef v Minister for Immigration and Citizenship (2007) FCA reveal?
The key issues highlighted are:
- Unreasonable detention
- The violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966, delineating an imbalance for the rights of suspects
- Spender J: Governmental organisations, such as ASIO, should not be exempt from judicial scrutiny
Now it’s your turn!
Let’s revisit the question:
Try using the above information about Haneef v Minister for Immigration and Citizenship (2007) FCA to answer this question!
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Sophia Zou completed the HSC back in 2013, however she considers it her mission to help students make the most of their final years at high school. Her interests include political science, Simon and Garfunkel, and pretending to be a tea aficionado. Alongside tutoring at Art of Smart Education, she spends her time playing the piano and studying Government & IR and Languages at the University of Sydney.