Glossary of Terms

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N
OP Q R S T U V W X Y Z

 

A

Accused – An individual charged with breaking the law. Also known as a defendant.

Acquittal – A decision of a judge that an accused is not guilty or a case is not proven.

Adjourn – A break in court proceedings to mark the end of a legislative day.

Affidavit – A signed statement made on oath. This can be used in court as proof of what the witness says, without requiring the witness to come to court.

Affirmation – A declaration to tell the truth in court; one that does not involve taking a religious oath.

Allegation – An accusation that has been made but not yet proven to be true.

Appeal – To challenge a conviction and/or sentence.

 

B

Bail – Temporary release of an accused person awaiting trial or a hearing, usually on the condition that a sum of money is lodged to guarantee their appearance in court. Also known as Police Bail.

 

C

Charge – The crime that the accused is thought to have committed.

Citation – The letter or form that tells a witness when and where to go to court.

Commissioner – A judge, lawyer, sheriff or other suitable person who hears evidence at a different place and time to the actual court case. This evidence can then be used during the court case.

Complaint – A statement accusing a person of breaking the law.

Confiscation – Property or money taken from an offender who benefited from crime.

Cross-examination – Being questioned by the lawyers of the opposing party.

Custody – When a person is kept in prison or a police cell.

 

D

Direct Examination – Formal interrogation of a witness by his or her own lawyer.

E

Evidence – What a witness says in court. Also includes items such as documents, photographs and clothing.

 

F

Forensic evidence – Scientific evidence collected from a crime scene such as DNA or fingerprints. 

 

G

Guilty – A verdict that means it has been proven beyond reasonable doubt that the accused has a part to play or is fully responsible for the crime. The judge then considers any punishment or sentence.


 

H

Hearing – Any part of a trial that takes place in court.

I

Indictment – A court document that sets out the charges that the accused faces.

Intestate succession – The term used when a person dies without making a will.

 

J

Judge – A law expert in charge of all court proceedings while ensuring legal rules are followed.

 

L

Liable – To be legally obligated or responsible.

 

M

Maintenance – A periodic monetary sum paid by one spouse for the benefit of the other upon dissolution of marriage or separation.

 

N

Next of kin – Closest relative.

Not guilty/not proven – Verdicts that mean there was insufficient evidence to prove a case beyond reasonable doubt, or there were other special reasons for not finding the accused guilty. This person will be free to leave the court and cannot be tried again for the same offence.

 

O

Oath – A religious promise to tell the truth in court.

Offender – Someone who has committed an offence.

 

P

Plea – The answer that an accused person gives to the court at the start of a trial when asked if guilty or not.

 

Q

Question of law – A question about the law rather than facts of a court case.

 

R

Remanded in custody – When a person is kept in prison or police cell before a court appearance.

 

S

Sentence – The judge's decision on what should happen when an accused is found guilty of breaking the law.

 

T

Trial – A judicial determination and examination of legal issues and facts arising between parties in a criminal or civil case.

 

U

Undertaking – The document signed by a person who was arrested and released on bail after promising to return to court when required. This person may have to abide by certain conditions while on bail.

V

Verdict – The decision reached at the end of a trial on whether the accused is guilty or not.

W

Warrant – A court document that allows the police to take certain actions, such as searching premises or arresting someone.