Civil law deals with disputes between individuals or individuals and companies and their rights and duties to each other. Either defendant or pursuer may be found to be wrong and be liable for damages (compensation to be paid). Civil law exists to protect individuals against one another. Civil law sets out the rights and duties of individuals. For instance, an individual or a business agrees to provide goods or services to another at a price, but the goods or services are substandard, a claim can be brought under consumer protection law. The outcome of civil law cases is decided on the balance of probabilities that the act or omission alleged occurred.
Criminal law deals with criminal offences and their punishment. The burden of proof in a criminal case is to demonstrate that guilt has been proven ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. Scottish Law is unique in having three possible verdicts; guilty, ‘not guilty’ and ‘not proven’. Criminal Law ensures every citizen knows the boundaries of acceptable conduct in the UK. For example, it is clearly unacceptable conduct to steal from another individual, or take the life of another.
A breach of criminal law is seen as a wrong against society as a whole. If an individual breaches criminal law and commits an offence, they may well face criminal prosecution and, if convicted, will receive an adequate penalty. Punishments for criminal offences are typically fines, imprisonment and or a community sentence
Decisions made in legal actions are based decisions made in previous cases.
Sometimes, both criminal and civil law will arise in relation to an incident. Road users, for instance, have a duty of care towards other road users. If a road user is driving carelessly and causes an accident which injures another person, a civil claim can be brought for damages for negligence, in addition to any criminal prosecution.
What is a Precognition Statement and why am I being asked for one?
A precognition statement is different from the witness statement you may have already given to the Police.
A precognition statement is a distinctive feature of the Scottish legal system. It is the face to face interview of a witness who may be called to give evidence at an upcoming Fatal Accident Inquiry, civil case, criminal trial.
A precognition statement is taken to evaluate the evidence the witness will give whilst under oath in court. You may be requested to provide a precognition statement if you:-
- Have been involved in the treatment and care of a patient
- Have witnessed a crime or been a victim of a crime
- Have seen or heard something in connection with a an accident or crime
- Have information about someone accused of a crime/or legal claim
- Have been involved either directly or indirectly in a children’s hearing case
- Expert witness
Providing a precognition statement is an important aspect of the Scottish Legal System. Please note, opposing sides can interview each other’s witnesses prior to attendance in court and again, this is to evaluate the evidence witnesses are likely to give in court.
If you have any specific questions about a recent request to provide a precognition statement, and are just unsure, please do not hesitate to get in touch with Rachel McGowan, Legal Claims Manager.