This essay explores the differences and purpose behind criminal and civil law. First it is useful to define what is meant by the term law. Law could be defined as “a set of rules to encourage a more peaceful society”. In other words, law regulates and protects society by defining undesirable behaviour and providing a framework of punishment.
As a society we accept some acts are undesirable and the state enforces a system of laws to identify and punish these. This is the system of criminal law. In this way laws define our rights and responsibilities to society. As individuals and organisations we can also use the system of civil laws to assert our rights and force others to act responsibly.
Civil and criminal law differ in many respects, for example the courts where the cases are heard, the language used to describe the participants, the burden of proof and the punishments which might follow. While criminal law is the tool or instrument of the state, with cases prosecuted by the state and the guilty punished by the state, civil law allows individuals, companies or organisations to settle disputes and conflicts.
While the system of civil law is administered by the state it is not generally the state which initiates proceedings. Civil courts provide the apparatus for the public to assert their rights. An example is Miller v Jackson  QB 966. Mr & Mrs Miller, the claimants or plaintiffs, argued that cricket balls from the neighbouring club spoiled the enjoyment of their garden. The cricket club had not committed a crime but the Millers asked the court to balance the competing rights of club and residents and decide whether the right to play cricket was less or more important than the Miller’s right to enjoy their garden.
While criminal and civil laws are different, the process used to create them is essentially the same. Historically law was the result of custom, tradition and common sense. By 1250 these laws of England had been compiled and...
References: Miller v Jackson  QB 966
Abortion Act 1967
Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974
Working Time Directive 93/104/EC
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