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The Law and its Role in a Community

By: Joanne Walker BA (hons) - Updated: 14 Dec 2015 | comments*Discuss
Law Role Community Society Criminal

The law and its role in the community is an important feature of citizenship. On paper, the law and its role is easy to understand. The law is a set of rules which are laid down and which all citizens must abide by or face punishment. But it reality, it is not as cut and dried as that. The law and its role in a community can be explored to look at interesting aspects of citizenship and the way people can use the law to their advantage.

Criminal Law

Criminal law is that type of which is enforced by the police and is the most frequently called to mind type of law when we think about courts. Most laws in criminal law are there for public protection, and certainly the most serious, such as murder, rape assault, robbery etc, are vital to the well-being of society. So, in this case, the role of law in a community is to keep order and to protect people who live in that community, their property and their right to live an uninterrupted life.

Civil Law

Civil law is a little more complicated to define with regards to its role in the community. Theoretically, like criminal law, it is there to prevent disorder, but in matters such as families and libel, rather than in criminal matters. But many people would disagree with the intervention of the courts, particularly with regards to family matters and say that they stir nut more trouble than they should. Certainly, wherever possible, it does seem that family matters should be settled privately but sometimes, where things have become acrimonious, it is impossible to do this.


So while the role of law in a community is normally to keep order, there are times when people deliberately break the law to use it to their advantage. No one is suggesting that this is correct or the right way to go about things but it certainly gets people’s attention.

One frequent way that the law is used to draw attention to something like in the form of protests. The protest group Fathers 4 Justice have used the law and the breaking of it to their advantage on many occasions, such as dressing up activists as superheroes and putting them on top of public buildings. This is an infringement of the law, but because it does not tend to hurt members of the public, they may well be able to raise awareness of their cause by doing it, without alienating people.

However, other groups have been more radical in their breaking of the law, which does not tend to go down well and create a lot of sympathy with the public. This includes the animal rights activists who sent death threats to the owners of a guinea pig farm and dug up an old lady’s body. Rather than create public support by breaking the law, they alienated themselves with these acts.

The law is a curious thing within society because the vast majority of people abide by it without so much as a second thought. However, there are always going to be criminals and always going to be people who break the law. There will also always be people that argue their law breaking was justified – but the law rarely agrees. For the most part, the law’s role is to prevent disorder in communities and also give people some structure and form to the way they go about daily business – rather than letting everyone do exactly as they wish.

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