Litigation (Civil and Criminal)


Civil cases usually involve private disputes between persons or organisations. Criminal cases involve an action that is harmful to society.

Below is a comparison of the key differences between civil and criminal cases.


Civil Cases

A civil case begins when a person, entity, corporation or the government, (referred to as the claimant/plaintiff), claims that another (the defendant) has failed to carry out a legal duty owed to them. Both the plaintiff and the defendant are referred to as 'parties' or 'litigants. The plaintiff may ask the court to tell the defendant to fulfil the duty, or make compensation for the harm done, or both. Legal duties include respecting the rights established.

A civil claim can be brought in Civil Courts eg County, High and Supreme Courts or Appeals Court. (The list can be endless when considering other legal Ombudsman Services, Arbitration etc)

For example, if a supply company enters a contract to sell a specific product to a consumer or another company on terms that were agreed then fails on the promises made, the buyer might pursue the supplier to pay the extra costs incurred because of the seller's failure to deliver.

These claims are called a 'claim in damages'.


Criminal Cases

A person accused of a crime is generally charged with a formal accusation. The police investigate and pass the evidence to a government body who on behalf of the people prosecutes the case through the criminal courts.

In these matters it is not the victim's responsibility to bring a criminal case as the victim would not be a party to the action.

When a court determines that an individual did commit a crime, that person will receive a sentence which could be - ordered to pay a monetary penalty (a fine and/or restitution to the victim), imprisonment, or supervision in the community or some combination of these three things.