Criminal acts are those that go against the rules of the Criminal Code or against another federal statute . In Canada, a criminal act is legally seen as an offence against the state, even though there may have been a specific individual who was the victim of the crime.
In a criminal trial, there are two sides: the prosecution and the defence. The prosecution brings the case to trial. The lawyer who prosecutes is called a Crown, or Prosecuting Attorney. “Crown” refers to his or her role as representative of the state.
If there is a victim of the crime, that person will have their own legal representation. The Crown Attorney is not their lawyer. If they have a role in the trial, it will be as a witness to the crime.
The person charged with committing a criminal act is called the accused or the defendant. The accused has the right to represent him or herself, but is most often represented by a defence lawyer.
A person accused of a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty. It is the prosecution’s job to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person is guilty. If the prosecution is unable to do this, the accused is acquitted and set free. The rights of the accused person are guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
If an accused person is found guilty, they will receive a sentence, or punishment. This could range from a small fine to a long time in prison, depending on the crime. The death penalty is not practised in Canada.
In a civil case, both parties are called litigants. The person who brings the issue to the courts is called a plaintiff, and the person responding is called a defendant.
Suing a person or an organization is done through civil law. Family Law and Labour Law are both examples of civil law.
If a civil claim is ruled valid, the judge will likely state how the problem can be fiexed (ie. name a rememdy) Depending on the case, the judge might tell the defendant to pay the plaintiff damages, make a public apology or stop a particular activity or action. For example, if you had filed an action against a newspaper for publishing incorrect and harmful information about you, a judge might tell the newspaper to print a correction and an apology and to pay you for the loss of reputation that you had suffered.