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Different Types of Law in the UK - Criminal and Civil

The law in the UK is administered by three different authorities – England and Wales; Scotland; Northern Ireland. Each have 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 entities. They all conform to the basic types of law codes known as Civil and Criminal Law.

There are two basic types of law in the UK – Criminal Law and Civil Law. As you would expect, there are many different categories within each type of law. There are also different types of courts, procedures and professionals that deal with them.

The contents of this section are specific to England and Wales jurisdiction. Scottish or Northern Ireland law may be different.

Typical Example of Civil or Criminal

Incidents which start out as a argument over a garden fence boundary, are essential just an argument - unless either you or your neighbour decides to engage a solicitor to help sort out the problem. It is now heading towards a civil court case, instead of just being an argument. No crime has been committed - unless one of you have used racial insults in the course of your argument. If the argument gets overheated - and you 'dot your neighbour one the nose' (please don't) you will have then committed a criminal offence, which will now involve the police for a start!

What was an everyday tiff has developed now into a criminal offence. A crime of causing harm to a person, is a criminal offence - much more serious than than a 50/50 hearing in a lesser court. The crime means that it may now be heard in a magistrates court. The main subject matter will be the damage you caused to the neighbour - not with the spat over a fence line. (You will still need to sort the original problem of fence boundary out by the way - whether or not you are found guilty or not guilty.) 

Criminal Law

When a harmful act is carried out against a person, property or against the community, country or state, it is classified as a crime or a criminal act. Such acts, and persons the ‘break the law’ are normally dealt with by a government agency, and punished under a wide range of categories within the Criminal Law Acts.

Typical acts of criminality include

Civil Law

Civil Law normally comes into play when there is a dispute between two or more persons, or between businesses where there has been an infringement of some form or other. It does not cover crime, though there may be a situation whereby a person can bring a civil law case against the person who has committed a crime – Claiming for damages etc.

Typical cases of Civil Law suits include


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