Types of Law

A guide focusing on the different types of law using the United Kingdom system as an example. It highlights the different types of courts, procedures, and the professionals who deal with them.

Three different authorities administer the law throughout the United Kingdom. They are the laws of England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Each has their own inherited set of laws which existed prior to the unification of the countries into the single unit of the United Kingdom.

Some forms of laws are common to each area, though administered and evoked within the separate legal matters and entities. They all conform to the basic types of law codes known as Civil Law and Criminal Law.

Thus, Criminal Law and Civil Law are the two basic types of law in United Kingdom. As you would expect, there are many different categories within each type of law. For this reason, different types of courts, procedures, and professionals dealing with them.

The contents of this section are specific to the jurisdiction in England and Wales. Hence, the different types of law in Scottish and in Northern Ireland differ in some ways.

Examples of Criminal and Civil Law

In many cases, incidents that start out as an argument over a garden fence boundary would only be an argument. The situation would change if either party decides to engage the services of a solicitor to help sort out the problem.

If so, it would be heading towards a civil court case, instead of being a relatively simple disagreement. Let’s assume that no one committed a crime (e.g. made racial insults or a physical assault). An assault of this kind is an offence and would most likely be involving the police as well.

As if that’s not enough:

What was an everyday tiff has now developed into a criminal offence. A crime of causing harm to a person is a criminal offence, which would be much more serious than a 50/50 hearing in a lesser court.

A magistrates’ court would now get to ‘hear’ the criminal proceedings of the crime. The damage caused to the other party would be the main subject matter (not the spat over a fence line).

The court would then determine whether there is a guilty party or not. Even so, you would still need to sort out the original problem of the fence boundary.

Different Types of Law: UK Guide to Criminal and Civil Law
The Houses of Parliament in London, United Kingdom

Criminal Law

There are many different classifications of crimes and criminal acts. As a rule, it would involve carrying out a harmful act against a person, property, the community, country, or the state.

Such acts, and the persons doing them are ‘breaking the law’. As a result, a government agency would deal with them and serve punishment under a wide range of categories within the Criminal Law Acts.

Typical and common acts of criminality include:

  • Harm done to a person in various degrees of severity
  • Damage done to a property
  • Fraudulent activities
  • Activities relating to illegal drugs

Civil Law

Similarly, civil law comes into play when there is a dispute between two or more persons, or between businesses. It occurs most where there has been an infringement of some form or other.

Yet, civil law does not cover crime. But, there may be a situation whereby a person can bring a civil law case against the person who has committed a crime (e.g. a claim for damages).

Typical and common cases of civil law suits include:

  • Boundary disputes between neighbours
  • Property disputes between persons or businesses
  • Claim for damage retribution from negligent acts
  • Infringement of copyright
  • Non-payment of due bills for services or goods supplied