The legal framework for the regulation of health and safety including sources and types of law

Criminal law

Criminal law consists of rules of behaviour laid down by the Government or the State and, normally, enacted by Parliament through Acts of Parliament. These rules or Acts are imposed on the people for the protection of the people. Criminal law is enforced by several different Government Agencies who may prosecute individuals and organizations for contravening criminal laws. It is important to note that, except for very rare cases, only these agencies are able to decide whether to prosecute an individual or not

An individual or organization who breaks criminal law is deemed to have committed an offence or crime and, if he/she is prosecuted, the court will determine whether he/she is guilty or not. If the individual is found guilty, the court could sentence him/her to a fine or imprisonment. Owing to this possible loss of liberty, the level of proof required by a Criminal Court is very high and is known as proof ‘beyond reasonable doubt’, which is as near certainty as possible.

Although the prime object of a Criminal Court is the allocation of punishment, the court can award compensation to the victim or injured party. One example of criminal law is the Road Traffic Act, which is enforced by the police. However, the police are not the only criminal law enforcement agency. The Health and Safety at Work (HSW) etc.

Act is another example of criminal law and this is enforced either by the HSE or Local Authority Environmental Health Officers (EHOs). Other agencies which enforce criminal law include the Fire Authority, the Environment Agency, Trading Standards and Customs and Excise

There is one important difference between procedures for criminal cases in general and criminal cases involving health and safety. The prosecution in a criminal case has to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt. Although this obligation is not totally removed in health and safety cases, section 40 of the HSW Act 1974 transferred, where there is a duty to do something ‘so far as is reasonably practicable’ or ‘so far as is practicable’ or ‘use the best practicable means’, the onus of proof to the accused to show that there was no better way to discharge his/her duty under the Act. However, when this burden of proof is placed on the accused, they only need to satisfy the court on the balance of probabilities that what they are trying to prove has been done

Civil law

Civil law concerns disputes between individuals or individuals and companies. An individual sues another individual or company to address a civil wrong or tort (or delict in Scotland). The individual who brings the complaint to court is known as the claimant or plaintiff (pursuer in Scotland), and the individual or company who is being sued is known as the defendant (defender in Scotland).

The Civil Court is concerned with liability and the extent of that liability, rather than guilt or non-guilt. Therefore, the level of proof required is based on the ‘balance of court by enforcement officers (Health and Safety Executive or Local Authority Environmental Health Officers) and they are tried by a bench of three lay magistrates (known as Justices of the Peace) or a single district judge. The lay magistrates are members of the public, usually with little previous experience of the law, whereas the district judge is legally qualified.HD movies download from moviewatcher

Crown Court

The Crown Court hears the more serious cases, which are passed to them from the Magistrates Court – ­normally because the sentences available to the magistrates are felt to be too lenient. Cases are heard by a judge and jury, although some cases are heard by a judge alone. The penalties available to the Crown Court are an unlimited fine and up to 2 years’ imprisonment for breaches of enforcement notices. The Crown Court also hears appeals from the Magistrates Court.

Appeals from the Crown Court are made to the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division), who may then give leave to appeal to the most senior court in the country – the Supreme Court. The most senior judge at the Court of Appeal is the Lord Chief Justice

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