Last updated 21 December 2016
A crime is conduct that breaches the criminal law. A person committed the offence of stealing, for example, when they take money from a bag without permission (s 398 Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld) (Criminal Code)). Police investigate the crime and may lay charges against the suspect. Once charged, the police and/or the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions then prosecute the person in court.
A person who is found guilty or pleads guilty to a criminal offence is punished. The level of punishment is decided by the presiding judge or magistrate, within the legislative bounds set by the state. Punishment includes penalties such as:
- community service
Private criminal prosecutions
A private citizen may commence criminal proceedings against an alleged offender. This is an extremely rare procedure.
Offences by children
Queensland is the only jurisdiction in Australia that considers a person to be an adult at the age of 17 years for the purposes of the criminal law.
By contrast, when a person commits a civil wrong, the police are not usually involved in the investigation of the conduct, and the person is not prosecuted by the state.
The person who alleges that the wrongful conduct has occurred institutes private proceedings against the wrongdoer in court. Generally, the remedy for a civil wrong is a court order requiring the wrongdoer to pay damages (money), although other remedies may be available.