UK Law

UK Law and the Legal System 

How is UK Law Categorised?
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK) consists of four countries: England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.Some laws apply throughout the whole of the UK, and some apply to just one, two or three countries.

A distinction is made between public law, which governs the relationship between individual citizens and the state, and private law, which governs relationships between individuals and private organisations.

The two top tiers of UK law investigated by law enforcement agencies are civil law and criminal law.

Civil law covers areas such as contracts, negligence, family matters, employment, probate and land law.

Criminal law (a branch of public law), defines the boundaries of acceptable conduct. A person who breaks the criminal law is regarded as having committed an offence against society as a whole.

Investigation Proceedings

Criminal Proceedings
These proceedings deal with people who are alleged to have committed a criminal offence.  An offence is any act, conduct or omission for which a criminal penalty (e.g. imprisonment, a fine) is provided by law.

Civil Proceedings
These proceedings deal with laws that concern the private rights and obligations of an individual. They are very wide ranging, and include such things as:
• contractual disputes
• interference with the property or personal rights of others (e.g. trespassing, causing a nuisance
• family proceedings
• libel
• tax liabilities (including civil penalties for non-compliance)
• condemnation proceedings; and
• The majority of actions under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

Legal Jurisdictions
There are three distinct legal jurisdictions within the United Kingdom:

• England and Wales
• Scotland
• Northern Ireland.

As a subject of our internal law the Isle of Man is not part of the United Kingdom and has its own legal system based on common law, but does have a common customs and VAT system with the UK by virtue of agreements in international law.  The Channel Islands also have their own legal systems but are not within either a customs union or a common VAT territory with the UK.

Find out everything you need to know about the UK legal system, from how the court system operates to being on jury service: