Criminal and civil law
Another way of classifying the legal framework to identify your workplace responsibilities and obligations is to divide the legal framework into civil law (disputes between individuals - the main areas being negligence, defamation, nuisance, contract and trespass) and criminal law. As a community and disability services worker you may be required to give evidence or contribute to pre-sentencing reports as part of your work with clients. If you have never been required to perform such tasks, it is worth asking more experienced staff if they have and, if so, learn more about what is involved.
Main differences between criminal and civil law
There are significant differences between criminal and civil law. In criminal law, the State brings the action. In civil cases, the individual or plaintiff brings the action.
The aim of criminal law is punishment, retribution, deterrence and rehabilitation. The aim of civil law is compensation.
The end result of a criminal case will be a conviction or a penalty such as:
- Prison sentence
- Court order (such as Community Service order, Probation Order etc.)
- Bond etc.
The end result of a civil action will be the awarding of damages, or the requirement to desist from a particular action (for example, a restraining order).
The standard of proof in a criminal case is 'beyond reasonable doubt.' The standard of proof in civil disputes is 'the balance of probabilities.'
Dealing with the criminal justice system