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Criminal law says that no one is allowed to harm or hurt someone else in any way. A crime is when someone breaks the criminal law.
When a crime is committed against you, the victim, it is also seen as a crime against our community. In our legal system, the police, prosecutors and the courts all have different roles when a crime is committed.
A crime is a crime against the State. The State, not the victim, prosecutes the accused person. The victim is a witness for the prosecution.
The accused is always considered innocent until proven guilty.
The NSW criminal justice system requires the accused person to be proven guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt." Otherwise, the accused person is found not guilty.
It is up to the prosecutor to prove the accused person guilty. It is not up to the defence to prove the accused person not guilty. Only the best available evidence will be allowed, for example, what a witness has seen, heard, said or done. There are very strict rules about what evidence is admissible or allowed to be used in court.
It is the role of the jury to consider the facts of the case and decide if the accused person has been proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The accused has the right to choose to remain silent or to give their version to the court in evidence. The accused has the right to face their accuser in court. The accused may have a solicitor to argue their case or they might argue their own case. The accused person may access Legal aid to assist in payment of their legal costs as long as they pass a means test.
Laws in NSW usually have one of two origins.
Common Law is based on decisions and their reasons as made by judges. By tradition, judges continue to decide each case based on similar earlier decisions which are referred to as 'precedent' cases.
Statute Law is based on Acts of Parliament, either State or Federal
Laws in NSW are in one of two classes, which have different standards of proof:
Criminal law relates to crimes or offences that are against the expectations of society as reflected in law. for example assault, theft etc. The state has the role of prosecuting or enforcing criminal law. Where Criminal Law applies, the standard of proof applied is that a case must be proved ' Beyond Reasonable Doubt'
Civil law is all law that is not criminal law, for example it includes 'contract law' and 'family law'. In civil law matters, the standard of proof applied is that a case must be decided on the ' Balance of Probabilities'
Plain Language Law search - Law and Justice Foundation - NSW plain language legal information, including books, factsheets, videos, community legal education programs and material in other languages
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