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Judicial Communications Office - Judicial glossary
Category: Business and Law
Date & country: 11/12/2007, UK
Words: 73

The written law of a country, also called a statute. An Act sets out legal rules, and has normally been passed by both Houses of Parliament in the form of a Bill and agreed to by the Crown.

A temporary postponement of legal proceedings.

Alternative Dispute Resolution. Methods of resolving disputes which do not involve the normal trial process.

A lawyer, appearing in a court of law.

Factors making a situation worse. For example, burglary is aggravated in the eyes of a court if the burglar is armed, or injures someone while committing the offence.

A defence that someone accused of a crime was not there at the time and could not have committed the offence.

A formal request to a higher court that the verdict or ruling of a court be changed.

Anti-social Behaviour Orders. These are court orders which prohibit specific anti-social behaviours. An ASBO is issued for a minimum of two years, and can ban an offender from visiting certain areas, mixing with certain people or carrying on the offending behaviour. Despite being issued by a court, an ASBO is a civil order, not a criminal penalty -…

Release of a defendant from custody until their next appearance in court. This can be subject to security being given and/or compliance with certain conditions, such as a curfew.

The British and Irish Legal Information Institute, which provides free access to the British and Irish primary legal materials on the internet, including a wide variety of court judgments.

A barrister is a legal practitioner in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The name comes from the process of being called to the Bar during their training. Barristers represent individuals in court, and provide them with specialist legal advice. Barristers must usually be instructed (hired) through a solicitor, but a change to the rules in 2004 m…

A draft of a proposed law presented to Parliament. Once agreed by Parliament and given Royal Assent by the ruling monarch, Bills become law and are known as Acts.

Binding-bound over
Being placed under a legal obligation, for example being 'bound over' to keep the peace. Failure to observe a binding order may result in a penalty.

The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service. CAFCASS looks after the interests of children involved in proceedings in the family courts in England and Wales and works with children and their families to advise the courts on children's best interests in family cases, be that in divorce and separation, adoption, or child care and super…

Case law
The body of law created by judges' decisions on individual cases.

This has two meanings: a private room or courtroom from which the public are excluded, in which a judge may conduct certain sorts of hearings, for example family cases; or offices used by a barrister.

Circuit judge
A judge who normally sits in the county court and/or Crown Court.

Civil court
A court that deals with matters concerning private rights and not offences against the state.

A sum of money paid to make amends for loss, breakage, hardship, inconvenience or personal injury caused by another.

Constitutional Reform Act
The Constitutional Reform Act, which was granted Royal Assent on March 24, 2005, reformed the office of Lord Chancellor, established the Lord Chief Justice as head of the judiciary of England and Wales and President of the Courts of England and Wales, and created the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. In addition the Act also made provision for t…

Contempt of court
An offence that can lead to a fine and even imprisonment because of a lack of respect or obedience by an individual in a court of law. You are also in contempt of court if you disobey an injunction or court order.

A barrister.

Crown Court
The Crown Court deals with all crime committed 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 magistrates.


A legal order confining someone to their home, sometimes for set times of the day.

Custodial sentence
Where an offender is confined to a prison or young offenders' institution for a set period of time.

A person who appears in court because they are being sued, standing trial or appearing for sentence.

A three-tiered system in criminal proceedings which ensures vital information on both sides of a court case can be seen by all parties:

District Judge (Magistrate)
Known as stipendiary magistrates before 2000, district judges are full-time members of the judiciary and deal with a broad range of cases appearing before magistrates' courts - especially the lengthier and more complex criminal cases and care cases relating to children. They may sit with lay magistrates or alone. -

District judges
Formerly known as County Court Registrars, district judges sit in the county courts or district registries in a specific region. Much of the work of district judges is in chambers, and they have the power to try actions in a county court below a specified financial limit which is reviewed from time to time. Cases above that limit are generally hear…

Draft Bill
An early version of a proposed Bill before it is introduced into Parliament.

A small mallet used to signal for attention. One of the most famous symbols of the judiciary, but ironically, they are not actually used in English or Welsh courtrooms.

Proceedings held before a court.

High Court
A civil court consisting of three divisions: the Queen's Bench, which deals with civil disputes including breach of contract, personal injuries, commercial and building cases, libel or slander; Family, which is concerned with matrimonial matters and proceedings relating to children or adults who cannot make decisions for themselves; and Chancery, w…

Home Office
The government department responsible for internal affairs, including crime, in England and Wales.

The Judicial Communications Office, which exists to enhance public confidence in the judiciary for England and Wales, advises members of the judiciary on media matters and helps them communicate with each other.

Justice of the Peace. The official title of a magistrate.

Of the judiciary (see below).

Collective term for the 43,000 judges, magistrates and tribunal members who deal with legal matters in England and Wales.

Law Commission
Independent body set up by Parliament to review and recommend reform of the law in England and Wales.

Law Lord
The unofficial title of the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary. The Law Lords have been promoted from the Court of Appeal to sit in the House of Lords, the highest court for England and Wales.

General term for someone practicing law, such as a solicitor or barrister.

Lay justice member
Another term for a magistrate.

Lord Chief Justice
Head of the judiciary of England and Wales and President of the Courts of England and Wales. Scotland's most senior judge is the Lord President, although the holder of this post does not take responsibility for the entire judiciary, and Northern Ireland has its own Lord Chief Justice.

Magistrates are members of the public who voluntarily give up their time to preside over magistrates' courts. They need have no formal legal qualifications, although they are trained in court procedures.

Magistrates' court
A court where criminal proceedings are commenced before justices of the peace, who examine the evidence/statements and either deal with the case themselves or commit to the Crown Court for trial or sentence. Some magistrates also have jurisdiction in the youth court, family matters (known as the family proceedings court) and limited civil cases.

Process taking place outside a court to resolve a dispute.

Arguments made on behalf of a defendant who has admitted or been found guilty of an offence, in order to excuse or partly excuse the offence committed and attempt to minimise the sentence.

Mr-Mrs Justice
The correct form of address for a High Court judge.

Open court
The vast majority of hearings in England and Wales are held in open court, with members of the public free to enter the courtroom and observe proceedings. Some sensitive cases, such as family matters, may be held 'in camera', which means 'in the chamber' or in private.

Plea and case management hearings
A preliminary hearing, before a judge at a Crown Court, where the accused may indicate whether or not they plan to plead guilty and have the chance to argue that there is insufficient evidence for the case to go before a jury. Directions are also given on matters such as what evidence will be admitted.

The Government sets out its policy on a wide range of issues, for example through manifesto pledges and in response to events or changes in society. In a lot of cases, after consultation, they will then look to make this policy law by placing a Bill befo

Pre-trial hearing
A short court hearing at which a judge considers how ready all parties in a case may be for the trial and fixes a timetable where necessary.

Advancing to a higher rank; another term for promotion.

The right of a party to refuse to disclose a document or produce a document or to refuse to answer questions on the ground of some special interest recognised by law.

The legal recognition of the validity of a will.

The beginning or conduct of criminal proceedings against a person.

Pupillage is the final stage of training to be a barrister. It usually takes a year to complete, with the year divided into two six-month periods spent in a set of chambers.

Barristers and solicitors with sufficient experience and knowledge can apply to become Queen's Counsel. QCs undertake work of an important nature and are referred to as 'silks', a name derived from the black court gown that is worn. QCs will, of course, be known as King's Counsel if a king assumes the throne.

A Recordership appointment, which carries almost the same powers as a circuit judge, is made by The Queen, and lasts for five years. Recorders generally sit for between four and six weeks a year, and normally spend the rest of the time in private practice as barristers or solicitors.

Statutory law
A law that has been passed by an Act of Parliament.

Summary trial
Trial taking place in a magistrates court.

Supreme Court
The Supreme Court was created under the terms of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, and completes the separation of the UK's legal and judicial systems. Justices of the Supreme Court will no longer be able to sit or vote in the House of Lords. Slightly confusingly, the High Court and Court of Appeal have up to now been referred to as the Supreme C…

Suspended sentence
A custodial sentence, but one which will not result in time spent in custody unless another offence is committed within a specified period.

The Bar
Barristers are 'called to the Bar' when they have finished their training, and as a result are then allowed to represent clients. The Bar is also a collective term for all barristers, represented by the General Council of the Bar.

The Bench
Judges or magistrates sitting in court are collectively known as 'the Bench'.

The Crown
The institution of the monarchy, or the historical power of the monarchy, usually exercised today through government and courts. It is the Crown which brings all criminal cases to court, via the Crown Prosecution Service.

A civil wrong committed against a person for which compensation may be sought through a civil Court, eg personal injury, negligent driving or libel.

Tribunals are an important part of the judicial system, but function outside of courtrooms. There are almost 100 different tribunals in England and Wales, each dedicated to a specific area - from pensions appeals to asylum and VAT matters. It is an extremely diverse system - the largest tribunal hears over 300,000 cases a year, while some rarely si…

Where an appeal against a judicial decision ends with the original ruling being maintained.

Ward of court
A minor (under 18) who is the subject of a wardship order. The order ensures that the court has custody, with day-to-day care carried out by an individual(s) or local authority. As long as the minor remains a ward of court, all decisions regarding the minor's upbringing must be approved by the court, e.g. transfer to a different school, or medical …

A High Court action making a minor a ward of court.

The Youth Justice Board for England and Wales oversees the youth justice system and works to prevent offending and reoffending by children and young people under the age of 18, to ensure that custody for them is safe, secure, and to address the causes of their offending behaviour.