Issues in Comparative Criminal Justice

The need for the law to be applied universally to all people and in the way that each one feels satisfied with the outcome ought to be a very basic need for as all humanity. The basis of any law being to serve mankind and not mankind to serve the law also ought to be the underlying factor that determines the nature and type of criminal justice system applied in trying suspects before courts of law. The law is not to be used as tool to oppress citizens but rather as the basis on which the justice is measured. Given that every justice system has to ensure that all people who come to seek justice able to get the justice, it is essential that there is put in place only that criminal justice system which is able to best bring about this justice.[1] This paper analyses the similarities and differences between three criminal justice systems that are commonly applied in different jurisdictions in the country – adversarial, inquisitorial, and Islamic criminal justice systems – with the purpose of establishing the aims and objectives behind them in seeking to ensure that justice is done to both feuding parties.

The Adversarial System

This system of criminal justice seeks to embody the need for the feuding parties in a legal battle to have the right to represent themselves. Self-representation has for a long time been fronted as one of the best ways through which people can get justice.[2] As such, the adversarial system has been rather popular in many court jurisdictions in different states in this country. The feuding parties are left to argue out their cases, while a judge sits and listens, drawing vital facts from the arguments being made. The judge does not as much as take part in the debates but merely listens and makes a ruling at the end of the argument. This system is based on an age-old belief that face-to-face encounters between feuding parties or their representatives provide the best avenue for the determination of cases.[3]

The Inquisitorial justice system

In certain cases, it is apparent that the arguments between feuding parties in a legal battle can get overboard and so fail to yield any information that is worthwhile for the arbiter to make a ruling which is fair. This calls for the judge to take a more proactive role in the legal case between the parties with a view to identifying the underlying evidence critical for making an informed and justifiable ruling. In this system, therefore, the arbiter poses questions to the concerned parties to get them to a point where they give responses as required by the neutral judge and not at their own whims. The neutral arbiter ensures only questions that are relevant are asked to the parties or their representatives.[4]

The Islamic System of Criminal Justice

This judicial system is based on the teachings of the Islamic religious believes. The feuding parties are able to present their case before a judge who conducts the case under strict religious laws and practices as opposed to civil or common law.[5]

Similarities among Three Criminal Justice Systems

All the three systems have one main goal – to ensure that justice is granted to the feuding parties. This is in spite of different approaches being taken. Any judicial system ought to be able to grant justice to both the defendant as well as the plaintiff so that its integrity can be preserved. That aside, justice granted when it is due helps to avoid protracted legal battles that arise when parties to a case feel robbed of justice and so keep appealing their cases. Justice provision is, therefore, a very critical factor that all three criminal justice systems have in common.

Another common aspect among the three systems is that there is an arbiter or judge who listens to the cases and comes up with a ruling.[6] The arbiter, who can be one individual or a panel depending on the nature of the case to be determined, has to be neutral and have the approval of the feuding parties so as to be allowed to act as arbiter. As such, the arbiter’s word is final and cannot be changed by a court of similar powers or a lower court even in other jurisdictions.[7] The arbiter has to have a deep insight or understanding of the legal procedures under whichever type of criminal justice system one is presiding over. This ensures that there are no unnecessary complaints that the due processes were not followed to the letter or that there was an omission of key statutes.[8]

Then in all the three systems, the right is given to the party that feels robbed of justice to make a formal appeal to the relevant court of appeal within the jurisdiction or in any other jurisdiction where the same legal system under which one was tried is in existence. This is a provision that helps ensure that the party against which the ruling is made is able to have a second chance at justice if indeed there can be proof that justice was not granted for whatever reason.


The Islamic system of law bases its judgment not on any human law such as common law or civil law but on the law of their God. Known widely as Sharia law, the law in these systems seeks to make reference to the teachings of the Islamic faith as contained in the Quran and not in any legal statute books as is with the inquisitorial and the adversarial criminal justice systems.[9] The aim of the Islamic law is, therefore, to bring glory to Allah through ensuring that his law rather than human law is what is used in judging people.[10] In the inquisitorial and adversarial systems, common law or civil law is used; and so the aim is to bring glory and honor to mankind and not necessarily to God. The more effective and better the system is able to work, the more the honor the judge, the court, or the government is able to get. Islamic systems seek to honor Allah as much as possible in every ruling. The arbiter in the Islamic system, therefore, has to have a deeper understanding of Islamic laws and preferably be a person who professes the Muslim faith unlike in the other two systems which call for an arbiter who understands common and civil law.[11]

The second main difference is that the adversarial system allows the feuding parties the right to represent themselves with the goal of ensuring that there are minimal appeals that often result when such parties are represented by state counsels or by other parties; or when the arbiter is the one who has the sole right to ask questions. This is unlike the inquisitorial system where the arbiter is sole interrogator. In essence, while the role of the independent arbiter is greater in the inquisitorial system, it is much reduced in the adversarial system to give room for face-to-face interrogations between two feuding parties or their representatives.[12]

In conclusion, no particular system is superior to the other but depending on the settings and the needs of the people, each systems finds better and more widespread application in certain jurisdictions and not others. Quite often than not, many jurisdictions will have a system of justice that the majority of the people in the jurisdictions are in favor of. For instance, states with more Muslim faithfuls tend to use the Islamic system than those where a majority of the people professes other faiths. It for this reason that there has been a historical trend where various criminal justice systems have been put in place and found application in different jurisdictions in this country. Since none of the systems can be underpinned and declared to be better than others, each system having its own unique ways of approaching legal matters, all the three ought to be embraced as long as justice is able to be granted those to whom it is due.