One way of looking at criminal law is that it is dealing with
something of public awareness. For instance, the public has awareness
in seeing that people are protected from being robbed or assaulted.
These are legal problems that fall into the criminal law.
Criminal law involves punishing and rehabilitating offenders, and
protecting the public. Since the public has an interest in having
criminal law, we give the government the power to put it in place and
enforce it. The police and Crown Prosecutors are hired by the
government to put the criminal law into effect. Public funds are used
to pay for these services.
If you are the injured party of a crime, you report it to the police
and they have the duty to investigate. They arrest and charge the
suspect. In most cases, if a charge has been properly laid and if
there is evidence supporting it, the Crown Prosecutor, not the person
who complains of the incident, prosecutes it in the courts. This is
called a system of public prosecutions. Long ago the person who had
been wronged prosecuted the case. The power to prosecute privately
remains, but is used rarely now. Even if a person starts a prosecution
privately, the Attorney General has the power to take over the
prosecution of the case. As a victim, you do not have to be
responsible for enforcing the law. The police and Crown Prosecutor do
their jobs for the public at large, not for you personally.
In a criminal case, the Crown prosecutor must prove the defendant’s
guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt." This means that at the end of a
trial the judge or jury can only find the defendant guilty if they are
left without a reasonable doubt about the defendant’s guilt. In other
words, there is no logical or rational reason to doubt the defendant’s
This is not the case in civil law. Civil law is about private disputes
between individuals or between individuals and organizations. Civil
matters include areas such as contract law, family law, tort law,
property law and labour law. The person suing for a wrong has the
burden of proving their case on a "balance of probabilities." This
means that a judge or jury must believe their story and evidence more
than the defendant’s version. They do not need to be convinced beyond
a reasonable doubt.
Civil disputes usually involve some harm, loss or injury to one party
or their property....