Understanding the difference between Civil Law and Criminal Law

29 May 2019
What are the key differences between criminal and civil law?
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If society is negatively affected by a criminal offence as opposed to only one individual, these associates to criminal law. These laws are the boundaries that clearly state what is acceptable conduct in the UK. Majority of these laws are codified in Acts of Parliament. 

If a criminal law offence is committed, the individual will face criminal prosecution. Punishments typically include fines, imprisonment and community sentences. 

Example of, but not all, offences that breach criminal law:

  • Homicide
  • Stealing and arson
  • Assault
  • Money laundering/fraud

Criminal proceedings will be brought in the name of the crown and will be heard in the Magistrates Court or the Crown Court. For the individual to be found guilty of the crime, they must be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

What is Civil Law? 
Civil law covers the rights of individuals or organisations that may not be protected by criminal law. Rather than a prison sentence, this law involves settlements disputes with compensations being rewarded. As an example, a personal injury claim would be a civil law case. 

Types of civil law cases include: 

  • Family disputes
  • Property disputes
  • Work-related disputes
  • Consumer disputes
  • Copyright

The other crucial difference between civil and criminal law is that the burden of proof is lower. For civil law, an individual only has to be proved on the likelihood that they're guilty. A civil court case will be decided by a judge alone rather than a jury. After the verdict of a civil case, it will either result in a claim or the case could be appealed and heard in the Court of Appeal or transferred to the House of Lords. 

If you need comprehensive legal services, our experienced criminal law solicitors can help. Contact us for a free, no-obligation phone consultation.