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Managing change: a new approach to legal services
A Legal Services Commission case study

Page 1: The difference between criminal law and civil law

In understanding how UK law operates, it is important to distinguish between criminal law and civil law.

Criminal activity occurs at both personal and business levels. Criminal acts include burglary, assault, drug trafficking, theft and murder. Criminal acts by businesses include fraud, industrial espionage and tax evasion.

Civil disputes can occur at a personal level - for instance, when neighbours argue over late night noise or access to a shared driveway. They can arise between individuals and businesses, such as when customers refuse to pay their bills or companies fail to deliver a service to an agreed level. And they can occur between businesses over the right to use a brand name or trademark, for example.

The Legal Services Commission has an impact in both the civil and criminal spheres. In 2000, it launched the Community Legal Service (CLS), creating local networks of suppliers, funders and service users who provide the widest possible access to legal information and advice relating to civil matters.

One year later, it launched the Criminal Defence Service (CDS), which ensures that individuals involved in Criminal Investigations or Criminal Proceedings have access to the advice, assistance and representation they need.

Legal Services Commission | Managing change: a new approach to legal services

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