The Law

What is the law? Every country has its own set of rules – ‘the law of the land’. The law protects your rights, your person and your property. The law is also used as a method of social control. This means it aims to ensure individuals behave responsibly towards each other. Different kinds of law • Statute Law – these are laws made in parliament. E.g. Hunting with dogs was banned by an act of parliament.

Case Law – if an issue comes up in court for the first time, the judge’s decision will set a precedent. Similar cases that come up will be based upon this case law. Common Law – some of Britain’s laws originate from the time before parliament, and some of today’s laws are based upon these and other customs e.g. trespassing • Bylaws – laws made by councils, airports, ferry companies etc – e.g. parking, dog fouling on parks, dumping rubbish, littering, open-air drinking. • European Law – as a member of the EU, Britain is bound by laws passed in Brussels (the EU HQ) e.g. metric weights and measures. Some EU decisions are regulations which means that they are law in all member states. Other EU decisions are directives which means they are recommendations.

Civil Law and Criminal Law Laws about private rights – civil laws Laws enforced by government – criminal laws Civil Law Civil law covers your dealings with other people – e.g. lending and borrowing money, entering into contracts, getting married and disputes with neighbours. A solicitor deals with matters such as these e.g. house buying, will-making etc. Most civil cases are dealt with in county courts. County Courts An individual (plaintiff) takes action against another (defendant). This is ‘to sue’. The court will find the defendant ‘liable’ or ‘not liable’. If found liable, the defendant has to pay damages in

compensation. Both sides have a solicitor, or a barrister, or both to represent them. A judge will decide the verdict. A party can go to the Court of Appeal if they are unhappy with the verdict. More important cases are dealt with in the: High Court Cases involving £50,000 or more are dealt with here. These are still civil law cases such as bankruptcies, wills, divorces and large claims for damages. Often the solicitor will be able to settle the problem without it going to court. These ‘out of court settlements’ are less expensive than going to court.

CRIMINAL LAW Criminal law deals with matters such as ABH/GBH, vandalism, sexual assault, rape, murder, drugs and violence. Criminal offences are regarded as offences against society, not disputes between individuals. The aim of criminal law is to protect society. A person is ‘prosecuted’ and found ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’ of an offence. The law states what punishments may be given. Criminal Courts There are separate courts for criminal cases:

House of Lords – deals with appeals about the law Court of Appeal – hears cases brought to appeal Crown court – serious criminal cases are decided before a judge and jury Magistrates Court – less Juvenile Court – for serious crimes or persons under 18 years summary offences e.g. old and over 10 non-payment of council tax, parking tickets etc About 98% of criminal cases are dealt with in magistrates’ courts. Magistrates

Magistrates are also known as J.P.s (Justices of the Peace), they are appointed, unpaid and have no legal training. They are often people who have been active in the local community e.g. youth group leader, headteacher, doctor etc. Most towns have their own magistrates court. Juvenile (youth) courts In some cases – a child may be sent to Crown Court if the offence is very serious e.g. murder, rape or arson. The youth magistrates have to have special training, and any child under 16 MUST BE accompanied by parent or guardian. Sentences (punishments) for youths Absolute discharge – for minor first offences

Conditional discharge – means you are let off on condition you do not re-offend within a period of 3 years. If you do, you are punished for both offences. • Fines – up to maximum of £1,000, usually the parents are ordered to pay this. Compensation orders of up to £5,000 can be made to the victim. Parents can be bound over to look after their children properly or pay a fine. • Community Service - attendance centre in leisure time, a supervision for up to three years with a curfew, a probation order where they have to attend a day centre, electronic tagging, and a community service order e.g. litterpicking, gardening, cleaning graffiti, clearing canals.

Custodial sentence – secure training centres for 1214 yr olds, 15-20 yr olds can be sent to HM YOIs, Young Offenders Institutions, or ‘borstals’, e.g. Feltham. The criminal courts

Cases held here are tried before a judge and jury. All judges must be qualified barristers or solicitors. They are chosen to be judges by the Lord Chancellor. The main criticism of judges is that they are all white, elderly, rich men. If a defendant pleads not-guilty then the case will go to trial. The defendant then either is freed on bail until the trial, or placed on remand in a prison. The Trial

In a crown court defendants are tried by JURY. A jury is a random selection of TWELVE adults (18-70). They are not paid but can claim expenses for travel, food and loss of earnings. Some people are EXEMPT from jury service: police officers, religious ministers and lawyers. You are excluded if you have been to prison in the past ten years. Trial by jury has been a basic human right in Britain for over 600 years. However it is expensive – Tony Blair has taken away this right recently. Basic Rights: • Innocent until proven guilty • Prosecution must prove guilt BEYOND ALL REASONABLE DOUBT. • Trial must be held in public (except youths) • Witnesses must give evidence in the presence of the accused, who may question the witnesses

• Court must listen to everything relevant the accused wants to say • Double jeopardy – can’t be charged for the same offence twice, UNLESS NOW, ‘new and compelling evidence’ has been found e.g DNA Sentencing There are FIVE theories of punishment: 1.retribution – make the criminal suffer 2.protect the public 3.deterrence – to frighten the criminal and others 4.rehabilitation – to reform the criminal, make him see ‘the error of his ways’ 5.reparation – pay back the victim and society e.g. community service

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