Classifications of Crime


We hear people being convicted of crimes daily from sources such as the news, to social media and twitter but a lot of the technical words the reporters seem to say about the crime just sound like gibberish! So, in order to understand the criminal system, we need to first look at the different classifications of a crime and into which segment they fit into…

Criminal Vs Civil:

In our legal system, an event or action is considered a crime if it has taken place against the state i.e. breaking any laws and is therefore prosecuted by the state itself but civil cases, are usually to do with disputes between individuals over duties they owe each other for example a breach of contract. Further differences include:

1.      Both types of cases entail different types of punishment if the defendant is found guilty because whilst a civil case will only result in monetary damages towards the other individual, criminal cases can result in severe jail time as well as monetary damages for minor offences since they deal with more severe issues like murder or manslaughter.

2.      Leading on to this, the evidence required to prove the defendant guilty also varies between both types where Criminal cases are required to prove the defendant as being guilty “beyond reasonable doubt” meaning that all the proof clearly points to the fact that they are guilty. However, a Civil case requires a lesser standard of detail when it comes to proof as Civil liability is often viewed as less blameworthy compared to Criminal liability meaning that there is enough evidence to show the offence was more likely to be committed as opposed to not being committed (preponderance of evidence).

3.     Criminal cases almost always allow a trial by jury but Civil cases do allow juries in some instances, but many civil cases will be decided by a judge

Indictable offences:

These type of crimes are usually the most serious and most dangerous consisting of offences such as murder, robbery, rape,  conspiracy etc. and almost always goes straight to the Crown court which deals with criminal cases in the UK and the granting of bail if necessary. There, a jury is required that will decide if the defendant is guilty or not, along with a judge who will decide the sentence of the person found guilty: i.e. length of imprisonment.  

Summary offences:

These are the less serious an more regular crimes which go straight to the Magistrates Court and include many civil cases. The type of offences it deals with are :

·         most motoring offences

·         minor criminal damage

·         being drunk and disorderly

·         burglary

·         drugs offences

·         assault

If found guilty, the court can give you a prison sentence of a maximum 6 months (though they are usually lower), a fine of up to £5,000 or a community sentence to do unpaid community service, however, the prosecution has to be started within 6 months of the offence being committed.