Legal Terms Glossary
- ABSOLUTE DISCHARGE
The court takes no further action against an offender, but the offender's discharge will appear on his or her criminal record.
The person charged. The person who has allegedly committed the offence
- ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF SERVICE
Form of reply to, or confirmation of, service of process
Discharge of defendant following verdict or direction of not guilty
Law, as an act of parliament
- ADDITIONAL EVIDENCE
Any statements that did not form part of the committal papers – usually served on the defendant under Section 9 of the Criminal Justice Act 1967. Often photographs/plans are served in this way and are accompanied by a statement producing them (that is a statement from the photographer or plan drawer stating that he took the photos/drew the plans).
- ADJOURNED GENERALLY
Temporary suspension of the hearing of a case by order of the Court (maybe for a short period, eg to next day or without a date being given).
Judgment or decision of a Court or tribunal
A barrister or solicitor representing a party in a hearing before a Court
Declaration by a witness who has no religious belief, or has religious beliefs that prevent him/her taking the oath, that the evidence he/she is giving is the truth
Also Known As, an alias or pseudonym, some defendants give false names upon arrest.
A defence by an accused person that he was elsewhere at the time the crime was committed or the evidence given to prove this.
- ALIBI WARNING
Formal warning to the defence, read out at the magistrates’ court after committal, that they must notify the prosecution within 7 days of committal, of any alibi they intend to call in defence of their client at the Crown Court trial.
- ALIBI NOTICE
Formal notification to prosecution of defence alibi. If received late prosecution can refuse to accept it and defence would have to seek leave of the judge to call alibi evidence. In practice it is normally accepted even when very late, as the judge usually gives leave to admit.
A document containing the personal life history and previous convictions of a defendant in a criminal case, for example, their employment, domestic situation
A term used to describe the process of bringing the defendant before the Crown Court to answer the charges against him, i.e. to plead guilty or not guilty.
Before - An indication within text to refer to an earlier passage
Application to a higher Court or authority for review of a decision of a lower Court or authority
- APPEAL COURT
The higher court to which cases are sent when either the defence or prosecution wish to challenge the result from a Magistrates or Crown Court.
Person who appeals
Lawful detention by a police officer.
- ASSISTED PERSON (LEGALLY)
A party to legal proceedings who is receiving legal aid
- ATTACHMENT OF EARNINGS
An order that directs an employer of a debtor to deduct regolarly an amount, fixed by the Court, from the debtor's earnings and pay that sum into Court
- ATTORNEY GENERAL
Government Minister responsible for prosecutions and the Crown Prosecution Service.
Release of a defendant from custody, until his/her next appearance in Court, subject sometimes to security being given and/or compliance with certain conditions
The collective term for barristers
- BARRISTER (see COUNSEL; SILK)
A member of the bar: the branch of the legal profession which has rights of audience before all Courts
- BENCH WARRANT
A warrant issued by the magistrates or judge for an absent defendant to be arrested and brought before a Court either on bail or in custody
- BIND OVER
In the Crown Court or (more usually) the Magistrates Court, and signed by an officer of the Court
- BIND OVER FOR SENTENCE
An order which requires the defendant to return to Court on an unspecified date for sentence. Failure to observe this order may result in a forfeit or penalty to be enforced
Written instructions to counsel to appear at a hearing on behalf of a party prepared by the solicitor and setting out the facts of the case and any case law relied upon
- CASE CONFERENCE
A meeting between a solicitor and/or barrister and their client
- CASE NUMBER
A reference number allocated to each case by the court or other criminal justice organisation
- Simple Caution – non-statutory warning given to adults (18+) by the police, following admission of guilt, as an alternative to prosecution, which though not a conviction forms part of a person's criminal record
- Conditional Caution - warning under the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (with reparative and/or rehabilitative conditions attached), given by the police after a CPS decision to issue and following admission of guilt, to adults (18+) as an alternative to prosecution, which though not a conviction forms part of a person's criminal record
- CERTIFICATE OF LEGAL AID COSTS
A certificate of costs allowed following taxation by a judicial or taxing officer (Previously referred to as an Allocator)
- Private room, or Court from which the public are excluded in which a District Judge or Judge may conduct certain sorts of hearings
- Offices used by a barrister
A formal accusation against a person
- CIRCUIT JUDGE
A judge who sits in the Crown Court
Matters concerning private rights and not offences against the state
- COMMISSIONER OF OATHS
Solicitors authorised by the Lord Chancellor to administer oaths and affirmations to a statement of evidence
- Committal for Trial: Following examination by the Magistrates of a case involving an either way offence the procedure of directing the case to the Crown Court to be dealt with
- Committal for Sentence: Where the Magistrates consider that the offence justifies a sentence greater than they are empowered to impose they may commit the defendant to the Crown Court for sentence to be passed by a judge
- Committal Order: An order of the Court committing someone to prison
- Committal Warrant (see WARRANT OF COMMITTAL)
- COMMON LAW
The law established by previous cases decided
- COMMUNITY PENALTIES
Alternatives to prison, community punishment, non-custodial options, Community sentences Sentences of the court which deal with the offender in the community rather than in prison. These include community punishment, community rehabilitation orders and drug treatment and testing orders.
- COMMUNITY PUNISHMENT AND REHABILITATION ORDER
Between 40-100 hours of unpaid work for the community, alongside a programme of work designed to deal with the offending behaviour and personal improvement supervised by the Probation Service.
- COMMUNITY PUNISHMENT ORDER
Community Punishment (formerly a Community Service Order) is a community sentence in which offenders work unpaid for up to 240 hours on local community projects under close supervision.
- COMMUNITY REHABILITATION ORDER
Community Rehabilitation (formerly a Probation Order) is a community sentence which involves regolar contact with the Probation Service. May also include attending an Offending Behaviour Programme to tackle the reasons why the crime was committed.
Sum of money to make up for or make amends for loss, breakage, hardship, inconvenience or personal injury caused by another
- COMPENSATION ORDER
A court order requiring the offender to pay compensation to the victim.
- CONCURRENT SENTENCE
A direction by a Court that a number of sentences of imprisonment or community penalty shoold run at the same time
- CONDITIONAL CAUTION
- CONDITIONAL DISCHARGE
A discharge of a convicted defendant without sentence on condition that he/she does not re-offend within a specified period of time
- CONDUCT MONEY
Money paid to a witness in advance of the hearing of a case as compensation for time spent attending Court
- CONSECUTIVE SENTENCE
An order for a subsequent sentence of imprisonment or community penalty to commence as soon as a previous sentence expires. Can apply to more than two sentences
- CONTEMPT OF COURT
An offence, punishable by imprisonment, of disobedience or wilful disregard to the judicial process
When an offender has pleaded or been found guilty of an offence in a court he or she is said to have been convicted. The conviction then appears on the offender's criminal record.
Evidence by one person confirming that of another or supporting evidence, for example forensic evidence (bloodstain, fibres etc) in murder cases
An individual offence set out in an indictment
Body with judicial powers (see also COURT ROOM)
- COURT OF APPEAL
- civil and,
- criminal divisions and hears appeals:
- from decision in the High Court and County Courts and,
- against convictions or sentences passed by the Crown Court
- COURT ROOM
The room in which cases are heard
- CRIME REPORT
The form filled out at a police station when a crime is reported. It gives details of the crime, i.e. the time it reported, by whom, the location, etc.
Person who is guilty of a criminal offence
- CRIMINAL CASES REVIEW COMMISSION
Public body responsible for investigating alleged miscarriages of justice.
- CROWN COURT
The Crown Court deals with all crime committed or sent for trial by Magistrates Courts. Cases for trial are heard before a judge and jury. The Crown Court also acts as an appeal Court for cases heard and dealt with by the Magistrates
- CROWN PROSECUTION SERVICE (CPS)
The Crown Prosecution Service decides whether there is enough evidence to take a case to court, and whether it woold be in the public interest. After the decision to prosecute has been taken the CPS lawyer or solicitor represents the CPS in court.
- CURFEW ORDER
A curfew order is similar to house arrest. People must stay indoors, usually at their home, for the curfew period. A tag, worn on the ankle or wrist, notifies monitoring services if the offender is absent during the curfew hours.
- CUSTODIAL SENTENCES
Sentences where the offender is locked up in a prison, Young Offender Institution or Secure Training Centre.
- DE FACTO
In fact - "As a matter of fact"
Person sued; person standing trial or appearing for sentence.
- DEPARTMENT FOR CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS
The department in government responsible for upholding justice, rights and democracy.
The offender is found guilty of the offence, and the conviction appears on his or her criminal record, but either no further action is taken at all(absolute discharge, or no further action is taken as long as the offender does not offend again in a certain period of time (conditional discharge).
A decision by the Crown Prosecution Service not to continue with a case
- DISTRICT JUDGE
A legally qualified person who sits in place of, or with magistrates. Previously known as a stipendiary magistrate
- DIVISIONAL COURT
The Divisional Court of the Queen's Bench Division deals largely with certain appeals on points of law from many Courts
Enclosure in criminal Court for the defendant on trial
- DRUG TREATMENT AND TESTING ORDER (DTTO)
A sentence for drug users who receive treatment for their drug use and have to give regolar urine tests to make sure they are not using drugs.
- EARLY GUILTY PLEA (EGP) SCHEME
Cases entered into the EGP scheme allow Defendants to make early guilty pleas, where appropriate, so Defendants can take advantage of the sentence reductions that are available for early guilty pleas. The objective of the early guilty plea (EGP) scheme is to provide a procedure whereby cases may be brought before court for an early hearing at which both arraignment and sentence will take place. Cases which plead guilty at an EGP will qualify for the maximum appropriate sentence reduction.
- EITHER-WAY OFFENCE
(see INDICTABLE OFFENCE, SUMMARY OFFENCE) An offence for which the accused may be tried by the magistrates or by committal to the Crown Court to be tried by jury
- ELECTRONIC MONITORING
An offender or person on bail, on a curfew order or Home Detention Curfew at the end of a prison sentence, has an electronic tag. The tag, worn on the ankle or wrist, notifies monitoring services if the offender is absent during the curfew hours.
Item or document used as evidence during a Court trial or hearing
- EXPERT WITNESS
Person employed to give evidence on a subject in which they are qualified or have expertise.
A sentence of the court which involves the offender paying money to the court as punishment for their crime.
- Guilty Plea
A plea entered by the defendant to the court admitting to the offence charged.
- HIGH COURT
A civil Court which consists of three divisions:
- Queen's Bench (can be known as King's Bench Division if a King is assuming the throne) - civil disputes for recovery of money, including breach of contract, personal injuries, libel/slander
- Family - concerned with matrimonial maters and proceedings relating to children, eg wardship
- Chancery - property matters including fraud and bankruptcy
- HER MAJESTY'S COURTS SERVICE
Her Majesty's Courts Service administers the civil, family and criminal courts in England and Wales. This covers Crown, county and magistrates' courts.
- HIGH COURT JUDGE
see JUDGE and HIGH COURT
- HOME DETENTION CURFEW (HDC)
A prisoner serving a sentence of between 8 months and 4 years can be released up to 90 days early under strict curfew arrangements and wearing an electronic tag.
- HOME OFFICE
Government department responsible for all national issues such as crime and immigration
- INDICTABLE OFFENCE
A criminal offence that can only be tried by the Crown Court. The different types of offence are classified 1, 2, 3 or 4. Murder is a class 1 offence
A written statement of the charges against a defendant sent for trial to the Crown Court, and signed by an officer of the Court
An officer appointed to administer the law and who has authority to hear and try cases in a Court of law
Final decision of a Court
- Relating to the administration of justice or to the judgment of a Court
- A judge or other officer empowered to act as a judge
- JUROR (see JURY)
A person who has been summoned by a Court to be a member of the jury
Body of 12 people sworn to try a case and reach a verdict according to the evidence in a Court
- JUSTICE OF THE PEACE
A lay magistrate - person appointed to administer judicial business in a Magistrates Court. Also sits in the Crown Court with a judge or recorder to hear appeals and committals for sentence
The area and matters over which a Court has legal authority.
- JUSTICE OF THE PEACE
A lay magistrate - person appointed to administer judicial business in a Magistrates Court. Also sits in the Crown Court with a judge or recorder to hear appeals and committals for sentence
Juveniles are under 18 years old.
The system of roles established by an act of parliament, custom or practice
- LAW LORDS
Describes the judges of the House of Lords who are known as the Lords of Appeal in ordinary.
General term used to describe barristers (who usually work in the Crown Court and Appeal Court) and solicitors.
- LEGAL AID
Facility for the fees and expenses of counsel, solicitors or other legal representatives retained by those of modest means to be paid from a fund administered by the Legal Aid Board
- LIE ON FILE
An offence not admitted to by a defendant may be allowed to lie on file if the judge agrees that there is sufficient evidence, but it is not in the public interest to have a trial, as the defendant has admitted other offences, and a further conviction would make no difference to the sentence imposed. If an offence is left on file, it can in theory, be reinstated at a future date, but only with leave of the trial judge or Court of Appeal.
- LISTING QUESTIONNAIRE
This form is used to ensure that all issues are resolved and that the parties are ready for trial
- LORD CHANCELLOR
The cabinet minister who acts as speaker of the House of Lords and oversees the hearings of the Law Lords. Additional responsibilities include supervising the procedure of Courts other than Magistrates or Coroners Courts and selection of judges, magistrates, queens counsel and members of tribunals. The Lord Chancellor is also the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs.
- LORD CHIEF JUSTICE
Senior judge of the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) who also heads the Queens Bench Division of the High Court of Justice)
- LORD JUSTICE OF APPEAL
Title given to certain judges sitting in the Court of Appeal
Someone who sits as part of a group of three and acts as a judge in the Magistrates court. Magistrates in England and Wales are trained volunteers.
- MAGISTRATES' COURT
A Court where criminal proceedings are commenced before Justices of the Peace, or District Judges, who examine the evidence/statements and either deal with the case themselves or commit to the Crown Court for trial or sentence
- MENS REA
A guilty intention; the knowledge of the wrongfulness of the act being carried out; what is in the mind of the offender. All offences require actus reus to be proved and most require mens rea to be proved.
The explanation for the offence given on behalf of a guilty party in order to excuse or partly excuse the offence committed in an attempt to minimise the sentence
- MODE OF TRIAL
This arises when an offence can be tried in the magistrates’ court of the Crown Court, an either way offence. Before the case can proceed to trial the magistrates must decide if they are willing to hear it. If they are, the defendant then has the choice of trial by jury or trial in the magistrates’ court.
- NOTARY PUBLIC
Someone who is authorised to swear oaths and certify the execution of deeds
- NOTIFIABLE OFFENCE
Offence deemed serious enough to be recorded by the Police. Includes most indictable and triable-either-way offence.
- OATH (see AFFIRMATION)
A verbal promise by a person with religious beliefs to tell the truth
Someone who has been convicted of a crime.
- OFFENDING BEHAVIOUR PROGRAMME (OBP)
A programme of work undertaken with an offender which is designed to tackle the reasons or behaviour which leads to his or her offending. Examples of Offending Behaviour Programmes are: Substance-related Offending; Drink Impaired Drivers; Aggression Replacement Therapy; Sex Offender Treatment Programme; Integrated Domestic Abuse Programme.
A direction by a Court
To number the pages.
A defendant's reply to a charge put to him by a court; ie guilty or not guilty. A guilty plea means the defendant, without pressure, freely admits committing the offence charged against them. A plea of not guilty means the defendant challenges the prosecution’s case and every element of the offence must be proved. If the defendant first pleads not guilty and then has a change of mind and pleads guilty, the charge must be re-put and a formal verdict taken. If the defendant first pleads guilty and then changes to a plea of not guilty, the charge must be re-put and a formal verdict taken. If the defendant first pleads guilty and then changes to a plea of not guilty, this will only be allowed with the leave of the court.
After - An indication to refer to something to be found further on
The decision of a case which established principles of law that act as an authority for future cases of a similar nature
- PRE-TRIAL REVIEW
A preliminary appointment at which the magistrates or District Judge consider the issues before the Court and fixes the timetable for the trial.
- PROBATION SERVICE
The National Probation Service's work with offenders combines continuous assessment and management of risk and dangerousness with the provision of expert supervision programmes designed to reduce re-offending.
The institution or conduct of criminal proceedings against a person
Person who prosecutes - usually the Crown Prosecution Service (see PROSECUTION)
As if - Any person exercising powers similar to those of a judge would be sitting in a Quasi-Judicial capacity
- QUEEN'S COUNSEL
Both experienced solicitors and barristers may apply to become queen's counsel.QCs undertake work of an important nature and are referred to as 'silks' which is derived from the Courts gown that is worn. They will be known as king's counsel if a king assumes the throne.
- REASONABLE DOUBT
The standard of proof in criminal courts in the UK is that the case is proved 'beyond reasonable doubt'. The Crown Prosecutor must prove 'beyond reasonable doubt' that the defendant committed the offence.
- RECORDER (also Assistant Recorder)
Members of the legal profession (barristers or solicitors) who are appointed to act in a judicial capacity on a part time basis. They may progress to become a full time judge.
- REFRESHER FEE
A fee paid to counsel in addition to the brief fee for each attendance at court after the first day of trial.
- REMAND (IN CUSTODY)
The accused person (defendant) is kept in custody or placed on bail pending further Court appearance(s).
When an offender commits a new crime after being convicted of a previous offence.
- RESTORATIVE JUSTICE
This may involve a meeting between the offender and victim, with a mediator, where the victim can tell the offender how the offence has affected them, and the offender has the chance to make amends directly to the victim of the crime.
- RIGHT OF AUDIENCE
Entitlement to appear before a Court in a legal capacity and prosecute or defend proceedings on behalf of a party to the proceedings
- SECURE TRAINING CENTRES (STC's)
STCs are purpose-built centres for young offenders up to the age of 17. They are run by private operators contracted by the Home Office.
Delivery by post or personal service of the case, or other court documents
Queens Counsel, a senior barrister sometimes referred to as a leader or leading counsel (See QC)
- SIMPLE CAUTION
Member of the legal profession chiefly concerned with advising clients and preparing their cases and representing them in some Courts. May also act as advocates before certain Courts or tribunals
- SPECIMEN CHARGES/COUNTS
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) will include Specimen charges in an Indictment to accurately reflect the course of conduct over the period in question. The prosecution will select allegations which, as far as possible, represent the start and end of the conduct as well as suitable allegations during the period in question ensuring the charges selected reflect the seriousness of the offence, give the court adequate sentencing power and enable the case to be presented clearly to the court.
A written account by a witness of the facts of details of a matter.
- STATUTORY INSTRUMENT
A document issued by the delegated authority (usually a Government Minister or committee) named within an act of parliament which affects the workings of the original Act
- STIPENDIARY MAGISTRATE
A legally qualified and salaried Magistrate - now called a District Judge
- SUB JUDICE
In the course of trial - Whilst a court case is under consideration. Proceedings are sub-Judice and details cannot be disclosed
- SUMMARY OFFENCE (see INDICTABLE, EITHER WAY OFFENCE)
A criminal offence which can only be tried by a Magistrates' Court
A review of the evidence and directions as to the law by a judge immediately before a jury retires to consider its verdict
Order to appear or to produce evidence to a Court
- SUMMONS (JURY)
Order to attend for jury service
- SUMMONS (WITNESS)
Order to appear as a witness at a hearing
A person's undertaking to be liable for another's non-attendance at Court
- SUSPENDED SENTENCE
A custodial sentence which will not take effect unless there is a subsequent offence within a specified period
A person being investigated in relation to a particular offence or offences.
An offender or person on bail, on a Curfew Order or Home Detention Curfew at the end of a prison sentence, has an electronic tag. The tag, worn on the ankle or wrist, notifies monitoring services if the offender is absent during the curfew hours.
An examination of a solicitor's bill in civil proceedings by a Court to ensure that all charges against the legal aid fund are fair and reasonable (see also PARTY AND PARTY COSTS which are also examined by a Court)
- TRIAL WINDOW
A period of time within which the case must be listed for trial
- UNDISCLOSED MATERIAL
Statements taken from witnesses on which the prosecution does not intend to rely and other material in prosecution possession which is not disclosed to the defence. There are very strict rules governing the instances when the prosecution is allowed to withhold such material. Such decisions should only be taken by a prosecutor and should be recorded on the file. Seek advice if problems arise.
- UNUSED MATERIAL
Statements or other material that do not form part of the prosecution case and are, therefore, not in committal volumes.
- ULTRA VIRES (See INTRA VIRES)
Beyond the power - An act that falls outside or beyond the jurisdiction of the court
The finding of guilty or not guilty by a jury
A person who gives evidence in Court (see also EXPERT WITNESS).
- YOUNG OFFENDER INSTITUION
A prison for young people between the ages of 15 (16 for girls) and 21. Young offenders have to be kept separately from adults, and juveniles (under 18s) separate from 18-21s.
- YOUNG OFFENDERS
Young Offenders are from 18 to 21 years old.
- YOUTH OFFENDING TEAM (YOT)
A Youth Offending Team is made up of local representatives from the police, Probation Service, social services, health, education, drugs and alcohol misuse and housing officers. The YOT identifies the needs of each young offender. It identifies the specific problems that make the young person offend as well as measuring the risk they pose to others. This enables the YOT to identify suitable programmes to address the needs of the young person with the intention of preventing further offending.