Civil law: Law which regulates the relations of individuals amongst themselves. It falls under private law.

Criminal law: Deals with wrongs committed against the state and it falls under public law.


  • Parties involved: In the criminal case, the parties to the dispute are called the state (prosecution) and the accused while in a civil case, the parties are known as the plentiff and the Defendant.
  • Courts and procedure: Criminal courts are handled in criminal courts guided by the provisions of the criminal procedure Act while civil matters are dealt with civil courts with the help of civil procedure Act.
  • Party injured (victim): In the case of criminal wrongs, the injured party or victim is the state which must take steps to prosecute the offender. In civil wrongs the injured party or victim is the private individual and the state has no interest at all.
  • Public prosecutors Consent: In all criminal cases, consent or permissions of the public prosecutor must be obtained before any prosecution is commenced. No such consent is required in civil cases.
  • Standard of proof: In a criminal proceeding, the prosecution must prove its case against the accused “Beyond reasonable doubt” and any benefit of doubt must be given to the accused. In civil cases, the plentiff is only required to prove its case against the defendant on “a Balance of probabilities” that is the evidence must show that the plentiff is likely to succeed in his case as compared with that of the defendant.
  • Compromise of cases: Criminal matter being a public wrong, it cannot be compared by the parties. Its only in very rare cases that the prosecution may withdraw its cases against the accused. On the other hand, civil matter being a private wrong, the parties are free to withdraw and settle it out of court at any time provided judgment has not been delivered.
  • Punishments: Under Criminal Law, punishments are usually in the form of payment of fine, imprisonment for a term, life imprisonment and even capital punishment. Under civil law, punishment is usually the payment of fine or some other civil remedy.
  • Purpose and fine: Generally the purpose of criminal law is to punish the accused and any fine imposed on the accused by the court is payable to the state as the injured party. The purpose of civil law is restoration (Compensation) hence any fine imposed on the defendant is payable to the plentiff as the victim.


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