B1.9 The UK Legal System


The UK has three legal systems:

  • English Law – applies in England and Wales.
  • Northern Ireland Law – apples in Northern Ireland.
  • Scottish Law – applies in Scotland.


English Legal System

Within the English Legal System there are two branches of law:

  • Criminal Law.
    • Criminal Law is concerned with offences or crimes against the state.
    • The aim of Criminal Law is to deter individuals and organisations from unwanted behaviour through the fear of punishment.
    • The form of punishment may be fines or imprisonment.
    • Cases are heard in the Magistrate’s Court or the Crown Court.
    • The Burden of Proof is “Beyond reasonable doubt”.


  • Civil Law.
    • Civil law is concerned with the rights and duties of individuals towards each other.
    • The aim of Civil Law is to compensate the injured party for their suffered losses, usually in financial compensation.
    • Cases are heard in the High Court or the County Court.
    • The Burden of Proof is “On the balance of probabilities”.


Some cases may be relevant to both Criminal and Civil law. If an organisation breached environmental legislation and that breach of legislation caused damage, the company may be both:

  • Prosecuted under Criminal Law for the breach of legislation, and
  • Sued for compensation under the Civil Law System.