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Comparison between Criminal and Civil Law in Ontario Canada – Introduction
In particular, criminal law involves significant criminal crimes such as murder, robbery, assault and rape, whereas civil law contains actions linked to the lending and borrowing process, agreements, neighbor conflicts and weddings (Merryman & Pérez-Perdomo, 2007, p. 6; Wood, 2002, p. 255). While both criminal and civil cases involve an argument about the rights and responsibilities of the people involved in a case, there is still a lot of difference in principles, administration and procedures between criminal law and civil law.
In this research, Ontario will compare and contrast the distinction between the values of civil and criminal court, administration, processes, and kinds of instances. As part of going through the main discussion, examples of cases that occurred in Ontario since 2005 will be provided in this paper.
Differences between the Principles, Administration and Proceedings of the Civil and Criminal Court in Ontario Canada
In principle, criminal law in Ontario includes acts which are proven to cause deliberate damage to another individual or assets of other persons, whereas civil law involves either conflicts between two persons or negligent acts which could result in damage to another individual (Canadian Superior Courts Judges Association, 2010 a). A good example of criminal law under the classification of burglary is the act of breaking into the home of another person with the intention to commit a felony (Lippman, 2010, p. 420). In line with this, the main purpose of criminal law is to protect the society’s peace and order (Sixth Sense, 2010).
Civil law aims to protect the interest of private individuals by upholding the rights of each person (Jenkins, 2011, p. 320; Sixth Sense, 2010). Unlike criminal legislation that includes causing deliberate damage to another individual, civil legislation includes arguing between two individuals or any type of negligence that may result in damage to another individual. These arguments can arise out of misunderstanding or disagreement over the ownership of land or buildings, dismissal of employee, bounced checks, or unresolved financial debts (FDIC, 2010).
Aside from simple family law cases such as divorce, division of conjugal properties, spousal and child support, parental responsibility for a child or the distribution of estates of deceased person; professional negligence and malpractice that could have resulted to physical injury or damages to another person is also categorized under civil court cases (Canadian Superior Courts Judges Association, 2010 a).
Since criminal offenses are committed against the safety and security of society, the State or Crown is responsible for investigating and prosecuting the criminal allegations against the victims. (Canadian Superior Courts Judges Association, 2010 a). As part of the investigating procedure for criminal cases, it is the local police who have the authority to gather concrete evidences that can be filed in the court. In court, the person authorized to present the criminal case against the suspect are the public prosecutors including the judges and juries (ibid). Since the suspect is found guilty of a felony, the suspect will be convicted of a felony and fined for years of imprisonment, fine, community sentence, or release.
Generally speaking, it is essential to gather numerous concrete evidence that an deliberate crime has been committed before any individual is convicted of a crime. The suspect hitting another individual can only be categorized as a criminal attack in the lack of strong evidence. Not unless the suspect was proven to have intentionally beaten up another person without a reasonable doubt, it is not possible to accuse the suspect of a criminal case (Canadian Superior Courts Judges Association, 2010 a).
In contrast to criminal law, the state has no role to play in the handling of civil cases except when the party is the government. Depending on the equilibrium of probabilities, it is the courts that can decide whether or not the defendant is responsible for a civil case, reject a civil case because of insufficient evidence or order the loser to pay the damages through monetary award (Canadian Superior Courts Judges Association, 2010 a). As part of the investigating procedure for civil cases, it is the parties involved and lawyers are responsible in gathering evidences which will be presented in the courts (ibid).
Forming the lower ties within the Canadian court system in Ontario, the Ontario Court of Justice and Superior Court of Justice make up the Court of Ontario. Specifically the Ontario Court of Justice is composed of 287 judges and 349 justices of the peace who were appointed to serve in the courts (Ontario Court of Justice, 2006 / 2007, p. 1). The Superior Court of Justice is solely responsible for hearing all jury trials and trials before a judge for a preliminary hearing of all civil and criminal and youth criminal instances (Ontario Court of Justice, 2006 / 2007, pp. 1 – 2).
Under Child and Family Services Act, the Family Court Branch has the exclusive jurisdiction in handling all other family law matters except for divorce, division of property, spousal support and child custody (Ontario Court of Justice, 2006 / 2007, p. 2). Family cases related to divorce, division of property, spousal support and child custody is being handled by the Family Court of the Superior Court of Justice.
It is the justices of peace of the Court who handles provincial offenses, bail hearings, and the issuance of search warrants whereas the judges of the court conduct trials for provincial offences, criminal and youth criminal justice bails, trails, and preliminary hearings, and family law cases except for divorce and the division of property (Ontario Court of Justice, 2010 a; Ontario Court of Justice, 2006 / 2007, p. 2). In order to prevent misjudgment, the Superior Court of Justice appeals to a judge of the Court of Justice of Ontario (Ontario Court of Justice, 2006 / 2007, p. 2). Composed of the Chief of Justice of Ontario, the Associate Chief Justice of Ontario and 21 other judges; the Ontario Court of Appeal who is in-charge of hearing civil and criminal appeals coming from Ontario Court of Justice and the Superior Court of Justice (Court of Appeal for Ontario, 2010b).
Types and Examples of Cases in Ontario
There are a lot of criminal and civil cases in Ontario. A good example of civil law is the case of R. v. Richards [2010 ONCA 728]. Jason Richards was found guilty of several offenses related to sexual assault, two assaults, forcible confinement, and two counts of failure to comply with courts recognizance after his girlfriend wanted to end their relationship. After receiving imprisonment for 7-1/2 years, he made an appeal to the Court of Appeal for Ontario for the grounds that was specified under Section 718.2© of the Criminal Code stating that “where consecutive sentences are imposed, the combined sentence should not be unduly long or harsh”. Eventually, his imprisonment was cut short to 5 years which includes the 10 months credit for the pre-trial custody. (Court of Appeal for Ontario, 2010 a)
- v. Duff [2010 ONCJ 493] is a criminal case wherein James Ian Duff was found guilty to two charges of possession of substantial amount of child pornography and was convicted for offence pursuant to s. 490.011(1)(a) of the Code for imprisonment of 10 years and pursuant to s. 161 of the Code for a period of 10 years (Ontario Court of Justice, 2010 b). Aside from DNA order pursuant to s. 487.051(4) of the Code, pornographic materials in the form of print and soft copy stored in external hard drives will be destroyed pursuant to s. 164.2(1) of the Code (ibid).
Although both criminal and civil cases involve an argument concerning the rights and responsibilities of the people involved in a case, it is easy to distinguish the difference between the two types of cases. In fact, criminal instances involve deliberate acts that could cause severe damage or danger to a person’s life, whereas civil cases are cases that cause two individual sides to argue over something.
Family law is distinctive even though it is categorized as civil law. Family cases related to divorce, division of property, spousal support and child custody is being handled by the Family Court of the Superior Court of Justice. Under Child and Family Services Act, the Family Court Branch has the exclusive jurisdiction in handling all other family law matters except for divorce, division of property, spousal support and child custody.
The Ontario Court of Appeal who is in-charge of hearing civil and criminal appeals coming from Ontario Court of Justice and the Superior Court of Justice. The Superior Court of Justice conducts hearings of all jury trials and trials before a judge for a preliminary hearing of all civil and criminal and youth criminal instances, while bail proceedings of other associated provincial instances and issuance of provincial search warrants are handled by the Court of Justice of Ontario.
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- Canadian Superior Courts Judges Association. (2010). Retrieved October 27, 2010, from Criminal and Civil Law: http://www.cscja-acjcs.ca/criminal_civil_law-en.asp?l=4
- Court of Appeal for Ontario. (2010 a, November 2). Retrieved November 4, 2010, from R. v. Richards, 2010 ONCA 728: http://www.ontariocourts.on.ca/decisions/2010/november/2010ONCA0728.pdf
- Court of Appeal for Ontario. (2010 b). Retrieved October 27, 2010, from About the Court: http://www.ontariocourts.on.ca/coa/en/
- FDIC. (2010). Retrieved November 4, 2010, from Trust Examination Manual. Section 4 – Compliance/Account Administration – Personal and Charitable Accounts: http://www.fdic.gov/regulations/examinations/trustmanual/section_4/section_iv.html
- Jenkins, J. A. (2011). The American Courts: A Procedural Approach. Jones and Bartlett Publishers, LLC.
- Lippman, M. R. (2010). Contemporary Criminal Law: Concepts, Cases, and Controversies. Sage Publications, Inc.
- Merryman, J. H., & Pérez-Perdomo, R. (2007). The civil law tradition: an introduction to the legal systems of Europe and. Stanford University Press.
- Ontario Court of Justice. (2006 / 2007). Retrieved October 27, 2010, from Biennial Report 2006 / 2007: http://www.ontariocourts.on.ca/ocj/en/reports/annualreport/06-07.pdf
- Ontario Court of Justice. (2010 a). Retrieved October 27, 2010, from About the Court: http://www.ontariocourts.on.ca/ocj/en/
- Ontario Court of Justice. (2010 b, October 28). Retrieved November 4, 2010, from R. v. Duff, 2010 ONCJ 493 (CanLII): http://www.canlii.org/en/on/oncj/doc/2010/2010oncj493/2010oncj493.html
- Sixth Sense. (2010). Retrieved October 27, 2010, from The distinctions between Civil Law and Criminal Law: http://sixthsense.osfc.ac.uk/citizenship/distinction_crim_civil/distinction_crim_civil.asp
- Wood, G. D. (2002). A history of criminal law in New South Wales: the colonial period, 1788-1900. Sydney: The Federation Press.