What are the main similarities and differences between the conduct of civil and criminal proceedings in the Australian court system?
The court system of Australia is divided into two segments, that is, civil system and criminal system. The Civil Justice System decides the disputes amid two or more individuals and the main areas of law are defamation, negligence, contract, nuisance and trespass, etc. Whereas the Criminal Justice system decides the disputes between the individual and the state and involves disputes related to public. (QCOSS, 2017)
It is very important to understand the basic similarities and differences amid the two systems before bringing any proceedings to court.
It is first important to analyze the hierarchy of the two courts.
The Civil Jurisdiction of the Queensland Courts comprises of a hierarchy of courts. At the lowest level is the MAGISTRATES COURT which has the original jurisdiction of up to $150,000. It has no appellate jurisdiction. Then comes the DISTRICT COURT which has the original jurisdiction up to $750,000. It is an Appellate court and has jurisdiction to hear cases from the Magistrates Court decisions provided leave is granted by the District court, however, the aggrieved can also directly file the case in the district court as the right provided the amount is $25,000 or more. Then there is SUPREME COURT which comprises of Single judge and has unlimited original jurisdiction. The Supreme Court has no appellate jurisdiction. Lastly, there is COURT OF APPEAL which comprises of 3 Judges of Appeal. It has no original jurisdiction, however, can hear appeals from District Court decisions, provided, the leave is granted by the Court of Appeal. The aggrieved can also file an appeal as of right from the decisions of the single judge Supreme Court or when the amount exceeds $150,000. (Atkins, Britton, & Lacey, 2014)
Apart from that there is Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) which has the jurisdiction to hear matter relating to Debts up to $25,000, Retail shop lease disputes, Residential tenancy matters, Minor civil disputes, Anti-discrimination behavior, Consumer and trade disputes and Building disputes. (QCAT, 2017)
Likewise, The Criminal Jurisdiction of the Queensland Courts also comprises of a hierarchy of courts. The lowest court is the MAGISTRATES COURT wherein the Magistrate hears the evidence and decides the cases. There is no presence of jury and less serious offences, such as, lie, assault, burglary, drug and traffic offences are decided summarily. After that there is DISTRICT COURT where the cases like rape, serious assault, fraud, armed robbery and decided by District Court provided a trial has already taken place in Magistrate Court. It has jury of twelve people. The court has power to declare an accused guilty and decide his sentence as per the law. Then come the SUPREME COURT where the cases such as manslaughter, murder and drug offenses are tried by Supreme Court. It has jury of twelve people. It has a single Judge which decides upon the sentence as per the law of the land. Lastly, there is COURT OF APPEAL which comprises of 3 Judges of Appeal but has no Jury. (Society, 2017)
Now, after understanding the hierarchy, the main similarities that are found in the conduct of both the criminal and civil proceedings in the Australian court system are:
Normally no Jury is required in criminal cases unless and until the crimes that are committed are indictable offences tried by district or Supreme courts. Likewise, in civil cases as well, an adversarial method is used and there is no requirement of juries.(Bailey, 2017)
Both are adjudicative in nature as in both systems evidences are analyzed and parties are heard before the case is decided in favor or against the parties.
Oral evidence/use of witnesses – Both the systems, that is civil and criminal do considers oral evidences and witnesses before deciding the matters before them.
Disclosure of evidence – The cases in civil and criminal justice system can be decided after the disclosure of evidence and thus both rely on the sanctity of the evidence.
Procedural fairness – Both the courts rely on procedural fairness, that is, right to hear, etc, before deciding the case.
Right to appeal – In both the justice system, the aggrieved party has the right to Appeal from the decisions of the judge to the higher courts.
In both the justice systems the lowest court in which the case is commenced is the Magistrate court.
The main dissimilarities found in the conduct of both the criminal and civil proceedings in the Australian court system are: (QCOSS, 2017)
The parties – In civil system, it is the individual who has the capacity to bring the case against the other individual, whereas, in criminal system, it is the state which brings the case against the defendant.
Burden of proof – The standard of proof is beyond reasonable doubt in criminal proceedings and in civil cases it is the balance of probabilities.
In civil law, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff to prove that the defendant has committed some wrong and the defendant has to then negate it. But, in criminal proceedings, the defendant has to prove he non-gaily first and then it is the plaintiff who has to negate the assertions of the defendant.
Aim - The main outcome of the civil system is to compensate the aggrieved, whereas, the main outcome of the criminal system is to gave retribution, deterrence, retribution and rehabilitation.
Penalty – The penalties, such as, bond, fine, court order and prison sentence is granted in criminal proceedings and the damages are awarded in civil proceedings.
There must be some kind of harm that must be faced by the aggrieved in order to bring civil proceedings but to bring criminal proceedings there is no need to prove any damages. Only wrongful action on the part of the defaulter is sufficient to bring criminal proceedings.(Raines, 2017)
Thus, these are the basis similarities and dissimilarities that are found in the civil and criminal justice system of Australia.
Atkins, k., Britton, B., & Lacey, S. (2014). Ethics and Law for Australian Nurses. (p. 280). Cambridge University Press.
Bailey, G. (2017). The Australian Legal System. Law Faculty, Monash University, “Alternative Law Journal”.
QCAT. (2017). Minor Civil Disputes. Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
QCOSS. (2017). Criminal and Civil law.
Raines, C. (2017). Similarities & Differences Between Civil & Criminal Cases. Leaf Group.
Society, Q. L. (2017). Understanding Queensland Court system. Australia.