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Allegations of Criminal Wrongdoing in Civil Disputes – What You Need to Know

Potts Lawyers > Uncategorised  > Allegations of Criminal Wrongdoing in Civil Disputes – What You Need to Know

Allegations of Criminal Wrongdoing in Civil Disputes – What You Need to Know

Allegations of Criminal Wrongdoing in Civil Disputes – What You Need to Know

By Jason Papoutsis

Individuals who are alleging (or have been accused of) criminal wrongdoing in a civil dispute should think twice about settling those disputes themselves without the assistance of lawyers.

Some examples of civil disputes where criminal conduct is also alleged include:

  • Claims for the recovery of debts or liquidated demands of money;
  • Claims for unpaid wages or unfair dismissal, and other employment disputes,;
  • Claims arising out of contract between a consumer and trader, or two traders;
  • Claims for damage to property;
  • Claims in defects for goods, including motor vehicles;
  • Claims for damages as a result of a failure to perform services as agreed;
  • Disputes between neighbours, residential tenancy disputes.

It is not uncommon for someone to make a complaint to the police, or to allege that someone has, for instance, defrauded the other person or breached regulatory laws concerning a business transaction.

In such circumstances, and for lack of better term, there is a ‘tension’ which exists in matters where criminal conduct is alleged in civil disputes, especially in circumstances where the allegations in the civil grievance are substantially identical to the facts which form the basis of a criminal complaint or charge.

This tension and other complications arise as a result of many different factors, including but not limited to the following:

  • If someone who threatens to make a police complaint in exchange for a benefit, they could could be committing a crime themselves (see our article on blackmail, demanding property with menace, or extortion by threats).

 

  • If the police have already been notified, you most likely cannot make it a term of civil settlement that the criminal charge is withdrawn, as such an arrangement would amount to a serious criminal offence in itself.

 

  • From a criminal perspective, you have a right to silence, however this may adversely affect you from a civil perspective. On the other hand, any information you provide in a civil matter can be used against you criminally.   The decision on which strategy to employ is very difficult to ascertain, and it is highly recommended that clients in these positions obtain advice from lawyers, such as those at Potts Lawyers, who are experienced in dealing with matters where the criminal and civil facets overlap.
  • The civil proceedings may bring forward new allegations that are related to the facts underlying a criminal charge, but which are not yet subject to criminal charges. This may result in further charges or may assist the prosecution to obtain an advanced understanding of what the defendant’s defence will be to the existing charges
  • In many cases, individuals could be placed in a difficult position where they would have to choose between not advancing an adequate defence in their civil proceeding, or defending themselves in civil proceedings at the risk prejudicing the criminal trial. In some cases, a criminal complaint may also warrant a stay in proceedings in a civil matter (see our article on Stay of Proceeding).

Regardless of whether you are advancing or defending a claim which involves both civil and criminal elements, we can assist clients with the complexities surrounding these matters and provide advice and a strategy on resolving these matters.   It is important that appropriate advice is obtained as early as possible.

For the reasons set out above, where criminal conduct is alleged in a civil dispute, is also extremely important that individuals in these situations obtain legal advice on the wording of any communication, letters of demand, or deeds of settlement, since the wording of such correspondence could be illegal, if appropriate care is not taken.

Civil disputes with concurrent criminal allegations are becoming increasingly common, and it is important that you obtain advice immediately so that Potts Lawyers can protect your interests.  Potts Lawyers are highly experienced in dealing with such matters.  We are able to guide our clients through what is otherwise a very high risk and stressful process which most persons are not experienced in dealing with.

Whether you are instituting or defending a civil dispute, and criminal allegations have been put forward, you should call Potts Lawyers immediately for a free consultation.

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