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The Role of Criminal Law and Civil Law in Relation to the English Legal System

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The case of Donoghue v Stevenson which falls under the law of torts and is part of the civil law is a good illustration that civil law is meant to uphold the rights of individuals. A friend of Mrs. Donoghue ordered an opaque bottle of ginger beer (intended for the consumption of Mrs. Donoghue) in a café in Paisley. Having consumed half of it, Mrs. Donoghue poured the remainder into a tumbler. The decomposing remains of a snail floated out. She claimed to have suffered from shock, fell ill with gastroenteritis and sued the manufacturer for carelessly allowing the drink to be contaminated. The House of Lords decided that the manufacturer was liable for Mrs. Donoghue’s illness.Criminal proceedings, on the other hand, are meant to enforce law and order in the interests of the community (Brody et al 2000), generally by punishing the offender. Proceedings are usually undertaken by the Crown, although private prosecutions are possible but very rare, and once started can be discontinued only by the Attorney-General.The intention of the criminal law is to ensure that every citizen knows the boundaries of acceptable conduct in the UK, for example, it is clearly unacceptable conduct to steal from another individual – thereby it is necessary to have the criminal law of theft under the Theft Act 1968.This clearly applies to other criminal offenses such as murder and rape. The wrong is against the society. A breach of the criminal laws imposed by society will be seen as a wrong against society as a whole. Therefore if the boundaries of acceptable conduct in the UK have been exceeded by an individual and that individual has been caught they will face prosecution by the state and will receive appropriate punishment such as a fine, imprisonment or a community sentence.Common law is based largely on the judge-made law (law developed through decisions by judges necessary to decide cases brought before them or case-law) The development of case-law stillremains an important source of law. A statement of law made by a judge in a case can become binding on later judges and can in this way become the law for everyone to follow.