Historically, individuals have sought to resolve their disputes by turning to the courts – primarily to have an arbitrator to listen to their case and to obtain damages for any loss suffered; alternatively, to be able to formally defend any action taken against an individual before a decision is made. Civil and criminal law are significantly different in terms of their aims and procedures. Civil law concerns the relationship between individuals and individuals, or individuals and corporations – examples of civil law are contract, employment, tort or family law. The evidential burden of proof is different to criminal law. In civil law the applicant only has to satisfy the court on the balance of probabilities for a decision to be found in their favour, whilst in a criminal court where an individual’s liberty may be at stake the evidential burden is considerably higher and the applicant (the state) has to prove all elements of the offence, satisfying the court beyond reasonable doubt. In criminal law the relationship is clearly different in so far as it is the state taking action against an individual.
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