This Dictionary contains the definitions of words and phrases you may hear used in court that you've not heard before or don't understand.
AccusedThe person charged with committing the crime.AccusationsThe crime(s) that it has been alleged has been committed by the accused.Acquit/AcquittalWhen the magistrate, judge or jury find that a person is not guilty of the crime.AcquittedWhen the magistrate, judge or jury find that a person is not guilty of the crime.Adjournment During the Trial or HearingA break for morning tea or lunch or for 'legal argument' (see below) It can also mean when a trial is put off until another day.AdmissibleUsed to describe evidence that is allowed to be given in court.AdversarialThe prosecution lawyers and the defence lawyers will offer opposing accounts of the crime. They will argue in court about the facts, witnesses evidence and/or legal issues. This is known as an adversarial system.AffidavitA statement, which is signed before a judicial officer or solicitor. The person signing the legal document states that the contents are, to the best of their knowledge, true.AffirmationA promise to tell the truth in court. Used by people who do not wish to swear on the Bible or other religious book.Alleged offenderUntil a person is proved to be guilty of a crime, the person is an alleged offender.AntecedentsA person's criminal record. This is not disclosed to the jury, but will be given to the Judge on sentence or on a bail application.AppealTo take a case to a higher court in order to challenge a decision. The person who appeals is the appellant.Apprehended Violence Orders (AVOs)AVOs are court orders that protect people from physical assault, stalking, harassment, intimidation or damage to property by another person.ArraignmentWhere the details of the charge (called an indictment) are read out to the accused in court. The accused will then plead guilty or not guilty.ArrestThe procedure where a person is taken into police custody to be charged with a criminal offence or to be brought before a court and must remain in police custody until they receive bail or until a court deals with their charges.
BailAn agreement to turn up to court. The accused may be given bail by the police or the court. A person on bail is allowed to go free until their case is decided at court.Balance of ProbabilitiesThe test (or standard of proof) used by a court in civil claims and children's care matters. It states that something must be more likely to have happened than not to have happened.BarristerA lawyer who specialises in court presentation. Usually wears a wig and gown in court.Bar TableA long table near the front of the courtroom where the lawyers sit.BenchWhere the judge or magistrate sits.Beyond reasonable doubtThe test (or standard of proof) used by a jury, judge or magistrate to decide if the accused is guilty or not guilty of each criminal charge. It must be proved beyond reasonable doubt that a person has committed an offence before they can be convicted.BreachTo break or to go against the rules or the law.Brief or Brief of EvidenceThis is a collection of statements from witnesses (both police and ordinary witnesses), medical reports, photographs, bail papers, charge sheets etc. that is given to the ODPP by the police after the police have finished their investigation and have charged the accused. The ODPP use the material contained within the brief of evidence to prosecute the accused.BriefThe evidence in written form, including the charge(s), witness statements, photographs etc. that the prosecution intends to use to prove the case.
ChargeThe allegation that a person has committed a specific crime.Charter of Victims RightsVictims of crime in New South Wales have a Charter to protect and promote their rights. The Charter of Victims Rights obliges government agencies to ensure that a victim is at all times treated with courtesy and compassion, and that their rights and dignity are respected.Children's CourtThis is a special court (generally closed), which is used in most instances for hearings involving offenders under 18 years and for child protection matters.Circle SentencingAn alternative sentencing court for Aboriginal people, which involves taking the court to community settings where Aboriginal Elders and community members and the Magistrate sit in a circle to discuss the offence and the offender. It can involve victims, as well as the offender's families and other respected community people. It is a justice program to ensure that the impact on victims and the broader Aboriginal community is recognised by the offender and reflected in sentencing decisions.Closed Circuit Television (CCTV)This is a provision available to child witnesses and adult complainants in sexual assault matters so they can give evidence to the court from a remote location. In special situations CCTV is used for adult witnesses at the discretion of the court.
DefenceThe accused person's case and the lawyers who represent them.Defence counselA barrister who presents the accused person's case in court.DeliberationsWhen the jury leave court and go to a special room to make their decision.DepositionA typed copy of the evidence recorded in court.Department of Community Services (DoCS)The former name of the government department now called Family and Community Services (FACS).DockAn enclosure in a court where a defendant sits during a trial.
Electoral RollThe list of names of people registered to vote. This list supplies the names of people who could be asked to do jury duty.Empanel a JuryPicking 12 people out of a larger group that have all been asked to come and sit on a jury.EvidenceThis is information provided to the court. Your statement forms the basis of the information or evidence that you will give in court, that is, what you saw, heard or experienced.Evidence-in-Chief/Examination-in-ChiefWhen the prosecutor asks the witness questions so that they can tell the court what happened.ExhibitsAll the other evidence (apart from statements from witnesses) needed to help present the case, such as documents, photographs, clothing or other items relevant to the case.
Forensic EvidenceEvidence found where the crime happened, such as fingerprints, results of blood tests, DNA etc.Forensic Medical Examination/ProcedureThe victim and/or accused may be requested to undergo an examination, for example mouth swab, in order to provide possible evidence for the case.Forensic PatientAn accused person suffering from a mental illness so severe that at the time the crime was committed, the person could not form the intent to commit the crime. This term also refers to an accused person whose mental condition at the time of the trial renders him or her unfit to be tried. The accused is not unfit simply because he or she is unable to remember the events and unable to give a version to his or her counsel.
Hung JuryIf the majority of the people on a jury cannot agree whether the accused is guilty or not guilty it is called a hung jury.
Indictable OffenceAn offence punishable by two years imprisonment or more. The less serious indictable offences are usually heard in a Local court, the more serious indictable offences are usually heard in a higher court before a judge and jury (or judge alone).IndictmentThe formal charge for more serious cases. Used in the District and Supreme Courts.Instructing solicitorA solicitor who helps with the preparation of the case and helps the barrister in court.
Joint Investigation Response Teams (JIRTs)Joint Investigation Response Teams (JIRTs) are made up of DoCS, NSW Police and NSW Health professionals who undertake joint investigation of child protection matters.JudgeThe Judge is in charge of the court and makes sure that it is run fairly for both sides. The Judge is called 'your honour'. The Judge decides the sentence of a convicted offender.Judge's AssociateA person who helps the judge in court with documents used in the case, such as exhibits.JuryTwelve people who listen to all the evidence to decide if the accused person is guilty or not.
LACThe police acronym for Local Area Command. An administrative unit within the NSW Police ForceLegal argumentAn argument between the lawyers on both sides that has to be decided by the judge; the witness and jury usually leave when this happens.
MagistrateThe person in charge of the Children's or Local Court who decides whether someone is guilty, not guilty or needs to be sent to the District Court for a trial; called 'your honour'.Majority verdictsThe verdict may be decided by the majority of jurors if one person disagrees with the majority.Means TestExamining a person's income and assets to see if they may be eligible for benefits.MentionA brief hearing to sort out what will happen with the case, such as setting a date for the committal hearing or deciding bail. It is not a full hearing of the case.
No Bill/No Further ProceedingsThe ODPP may decide that a case will not go to court and this is known as no bill, or no further proceedings. Generally it means that the ODPP has decided that the evidence against the accused is not enough for the accused to be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a hearing or trial.Non-Publication OrderIf you are under 16 years of age or a victim of sexual assault, your name and other details cannot be published or broadcast in the media unless you want them to to be.
OathA promise to tell the truth in court by swearing on a religious book that is important to the person making the promise.ObjectionsWhen the defence or prosecution believe a question is not a fair one they can object and the judge/magistrate must decide based on the rules of the court.ODPPThe Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP). An independent body established by the State government to prosecute serious criminal offences. The ODPP provides a solicitor and/or Crown Prosecutor to prepare and present the case at court.More on the ODPPOffenderA person who does something which is prohibited by law.See also Terms for an 'offender' at various stages of a criminal case'Open CourtWhen people other than witnesses can sit in court.
PALThe police acronym for Police Assistance Line - the main telephone number for reporting crime to NSW Police.Paper CommittalA paper committal is when the Magistrate reads the brief and decides on the reading that there is enough evidence to send the case to trial.ParliamentThe highest law-making body, also known as the legislature.PartiesThere are two parties to the proceedings in a criminal matter, the crown and the accused (defence).PleaWhen the accused tells the court whether they are guilty or not guilty of the charge.POIThe police acronym for Person Of Interest. This has replaced the old term "suspect".Police ProsecutorA person from the police who will present the evidence against the person who is accused of breaking the law.Police/Victim cardWhen you report a crime to a police officer you will be given a Police/Victim Card to keep for future reference.
On the front of the card are the contact details for the police officer in charge of the investigation - the name of the police officer, police station, phone number and the reference number or COPS Event number for your matter.
On the back of the card you will find some of the important rights for victims of crime and contact details for the Victims Support Line if you need support or referrals
These cards are pre-printed for each police Local Area Command.
See also:Justice Journey page - Reporting the CrimePre-Sentence ReportA report to assist the court in deciding what sentence to give a person who is convicted of an offence.Prosecutor/ProsecutionIn the Local Court or Children's Court, the prosecutor is a specially trained police officer. The prosecutor does not wear a police uniform.
In the District and Supreme Court, the prosecutor is a solicitor or barrister from the ODPP.
The prosecutor represents the government in a criminal case and the interests of the crown at court. In criminal cases, the prosecutor has the responsibility of deciding who and when to prosecute.Public GallerySeats at the back of the court where friends, family or anyone interested can sit quietly and listen.
RemandThe act of sending an accused person back into custody whilst awaiting trial.Re-trialA new trial of the same matter.Right to SilenceThis is a rule to say that a person accused of breaking the law does not have to say anything from the time he is arrested through to the end of the trial.
SentencingA range of penalties can be given during sentencing of a convicted offender including imprisonment, community service orders, good behaviour bonds and fines.Sheriff's OfficerAn officer responsible for security of all parties while at court. You can advise the Sheriff's Officer if you have any concerns for your safety.SIOThe police acronym for Senior Investigating Officer.SOCOThe police acronym for Scene Of Crime Officer.SOPSThe police acronym for Standard Operating Procedures.StatementA written document that sets out the evidence of a witness or an accused.SubpoenaA court order to summon (make) a witness come to court to give evidence and/or bring documents to court.Summary HearingA hearing to decide an offence in a Local Court by a Magistrate that is not sent for trial before a judge and jury.Summary OffenceA charge that is dealt with in the local court.Summing UpA judge's review of the evidence and explanation of the law for a jury.SummonsAn order from the local court requiring the accused to come to court to answer a charge.Support PersonIn the context of a court case - a person that a witness will sometimes have who can sit near them in the courtroom.In the context of reporting crime to police - a support person is defined a little differently.
TranscriptA typed copy of what was said in the court.TrialA hearing in a court where all evidence is heard and a final decision is made.
UnanimousThis is where all members of the Jury agree that the accused is guilty or not guilty.UnrepresentedIf the accused does not have a lawyer.
VerdictThe decision of a jury in a criminal trial.VictimThe person against whom a crime has been committed.Victim Impact Statement (VIS)A statement read or presented after conviction and before the sentencing of an offender which informs the court about the harm suffered by the victim arising from the offence.Voir direLegal argument about the admissibility of a particular piece of evidence in court. The witness and the jury are sent out of court while this argument takes place.Vulnerable personVulnerable persons are defined differently by different organisations. Please refer to the Vulnerable Persons webpage for more information
WitnessAny person who has to come to court and answer questions in front of a Magistrate or Judge and jury.Witness expensesWitnesses can be paid expenses, in accordance with a set scale, as a contribution towards loss of wages, travelling and related expenses.