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What Is The Law?

What Is The Law?

As a student this module should help you:

  • To be able to work with your partner to formulate a definition of the law.
  • To understand and explain the key elements in any definition of the Law.
  • To be able to distinguish between civil and criminal law and provide examples of each.
  • To be able to describe the main characteristics of the Irish Legal System.
  • To be able to demonstrate your knowledge of the structure of the Irish Courts with the aid of a diagram.




Definition Of The Law

The law consists of Rules of conduct in a community

The law is imposed by an Authority which demands or prohibits certain actions.

The law is enforced by the imposition of penalties or Sanctions.

Criminal Law

  • Concerns an individual's relationship with the State and society.
  • The purpose is to deter certain types of behaviour.
  • It consists of a set of rules to regulate people’s behaviour and activities.
  • Sanctions for breach of criminal law include, fines and or prison sentences.

The Accused is prosecuted by the State:

The State is represented by an Garda Siochana for most minor offences.
The Chief Prosecution Solicitor (Dublin) / State Solicitors elsewhere.

Examples of Criminal Offences

  • Murder
  • Manslaughter
  • Rape
  • Armed robbery
  • Theft
  • Reckless Driving
  • Assault
  • Shoplifting
  • Rioting




Civil Law

This concerns a person’s relationship with other people, groups of people or the State.
When civil disputes cannot be resolved privately or where circumstances require it, these matters are dealt with by the Civil Courts.

Examples of civil law

  • Personal injury and defamation (compensation)
  • Family Law
  • Employment Law
  • Conveyancing & property law
  • Contract Law
  • Commercial Law
  • Licensing: Examples, dance, pubs, lottery