- International law: governs relations with other states or countries.
- Administrative and Constitutional law: these are the laws that deal with the conduct of the government and the relationships between public bodies.
- Criminal law: deals with offences against the state and society as a whole. See criminal offences for more information.
- Tax law: deals with revenue and customs.
Private law governs relationships between legal persons. See legal persons for more information. It is most often referred to as Civil law. The state does not get involved in civil matters but provides the means for legal persons to enforce Civil law through the courts and tribunals service. Private or Civil law includes:
- Contract law: deals with contractual relationships which we are constantly entering into when buying or selling goods or services, buying or renting property, borrowing money, buying a car, etc.
- Law of tort: deals with civil wrongs such as trespass, nuisance, negligence, personal injury, slander and libel, how to stop them and the remedies available.
- Family law: deals with divorce and financial settlements, custody and visitation rights, adoption, domestic abuse, child abuse and neglect.
- Land law: refers to the land and anything on it or in it, such as natural resources and buildings, trees, rights of way, boundary issues, ownership and deeds.
- Employment law: refers to the employer/employee relationship and everything to do with the world of work, including both contentious and non-contentious issues such as contracts, remuneration, perks and benefits, redundancy, dismissal, harassment and discrimination.
- CRIMINAL: rules that forbid certain actions and behaviours and impose penalties against those who break them. These actions and behaviours are referred to as crimes. The focus is on punishment of offenders and deterrent against further offences.
- CIVIL: rules that require some form of compensation to be paid by those who break them. These actions are known as torts (civil wrongs) and breaches of contract. The focus is on restitution.
- PROCEDURAL: rules that set out the process to be followed to achieve a certain outcome. For example, what to do if you want to bring or defend a claim in the county court, take action against your employer or get divorced. These are known as procedural rules and there are rules for both criminal and civil actions.
The first two sets of rules (civil and criminal) are known as substantive law because they contain essential elements to the law.
Civil and criminal law compared side by side
|Action started by||Prosecutor: Police officer, government body or the Monarch||Claimant|
|Action taken against||Accused||Defendant|
|Reason for action||Criminal offence||Breach of contract
|Type of action||Being charged with an offence||Being sued|
|Court of first instance||Magistrates Court|
Indictable offences transferred to Crown Court
|Burden of proof||On the prosecution||On the claimant|
|Standard of proof||Beyond a reasonable doubt||On the balance of probabilities|
|Damages (monetary compensation)
|Appeals heard by||Crown Court (from Magistrates Court)|
Administrative Court (on a point of law)
Court of Appeal - Criminal Division (from Crown Court)
|Court of Appeal - Civil Division|
|Cases referred as||R v Accused||Claimant v Defendant|