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Judiciary - Legal process terms
Category: Business and Law > English and Welsh legal process
Date & country: 28/02/2011, UK
Words: 97

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.

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.

Anti-social Behaviour Orders (ASBO)
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 - this means it won't appear on an individual's criminal record. However, breac...

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

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.

Bar Council
These pages give details of the structure and role of the Council, the Bar Standards Board and their Committees, the dates of Bar Council and Bar Standards Board meetings and how to contact the Council.

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 means that members of the public may now approach a...

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.

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.

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

Central Criminal Court
Known as the Old Bailey after the street in London in which it is situated, the Central Criminal Court deals with major criminal cases in the Greater London area and in exceptional cases from the rest of England

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.

The Chancery Division of the High Court considers matters in relation to trust law, the administration of estates, guardianship and charities.

Chancery Division See: Chancery
Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service. (CAFCASS )

A circuit is the geographical area where a judge has the judicial authority to decide on cases. The jurisdiction can encompass a range of counties or districts.

Circuit judge (CJ)
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.

Civil Justice Council
The Council is an advisory body put in place by law to monitor the civil justice system, and to promote its modernisation. It provides a representative voice for all those who either work in, or have cause to experience, civil justice. It is here to safeguard the future of civil justice and to ensure that it is fair, accessible, and efficient.

Civil Procedure Rules
The Civil Procedure Rules are a procedural code with the overriding objective of enabling the courts to deal with cases justly.

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

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.

Council on Tribunals
The Council on Tribunals supervises the constitution and working of tribunals and inquiries in England, Scotland and Wales, seeking to ensure they are open, fair and impartial. It was replaced in November 2007 by the Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council.

Court of Appeal (CA)
The Court of Appeal is based at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, but has occasional sittings elsewhere in England and Wales. It consists of a Civil Division and a Criminal Division, which between them hear appeals in a wide range of cases covering civil, family and criminal justice. In some cases a further appeal lies, with leave, to the Supreme Court, but in practice the Court of Appeal is ...

Criminal Justice System Online
If you have come into contact with the criminal justice system as a victim of crime, a witness, juror or you have been accused or convicted of a crime then this site can help.

Crown Court
The Crown Court deals with more serious criminal cases such as murder, rape or robbery, some of which are on appeal or referred from magistrates' courts. Trials are heard by a judge and a 12 person jury.


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.

Dame of the British Empire

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

Disability Discrimination Act (DDA)
The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 is a piece of legislation that promotes civil rights for disabled people and protects disabled people from discrimination. You can order a copy of the Act in a range of formats.

A three-tiered system in criminal proceedings which ensures vital information on both sides of a court case can be seen by all parties: * Primary disclosure is the duty of the prosecutor to disclose material to the defence which undermines the case against the accused. Primary disclosure is triggered where the accused faces trial in a magistrates' court and pleads not guilty, or the case is trans...

District judge
District Judges sit throughout England and Wales in the county courts and District Registries of the High Court. They try the majority of civil claims although those over

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

Dishonestly appropriating another's assets for one's own use

European Court of Human Rights
In addition to laying down a catalogue of civil and political rights and freedoms, the European Convention on Human Rights set up a mechanism for the enforcement of the obligations entered into by contracting states. Three institutions were entrusted with this responsibility: the European Commission of Human Rights (set up in 1954), the European Court of Human Rights (set up in 1959) and the Commi...

European Court of Justice
The Court of Justice cooperates with all the courts of the member states, which are the ordinary courts in matters of European Community law. To ensure the effective and uniform application of Community legislation and to prevent divergent interpretations, the national courts may, and sometimes must, refer to the Court of Justice and ask it to clarify a point concerning the interpretation of Commu...

ex officio
Describes someone who has a right (for example, to sit on a committee) because of an office held. The term comes from the Latin for "from the office", and is used in the sense of 'by right of office held'.

An act or instance of deception

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.

Gray's Inn
One of the four Inns of Court based in London which every barrister in England and Wales must belong to before they are called to the Bar.

Proceedings held before a court.

Her Majesty's Court Service (HMCS)
Her Majesty

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, which deals with property matters including fraud ...

High Court Judge
A judge who sits in the High Court of Justice.

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

House of Lords (HL)
The House of Lords is the upper house, but the Second chamber, of the Parliament of the United Kingdom and is also commonly referred to as "the Lords". Until October 2009, the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary (

In camera
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.

Inner Temple
One of the four Inns of Court based in London which every barrister in England and Wales must belong to before they are called to the Bar.

Judicial Executive Board (JEB)
The Board provides leadership, direction and support to the judiciary of England and Wales. It comprises the Lord Chief Justice, Master of the Rolls, President of the Queen

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

A body of citizens, normally twelve people, who are sworn in by the judge and asked to give a verdict on a case in a court of law.

Justice of the Peace (JP)
The official title of a magistrate. Charged with defending the peace of the area they deal with minor criminal matters and misdemeanours and preside in only the lowest courts.

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 were promoted from the Court of Appeal England and Wales, or their equivalents in Scotland and Northern Ireland, to sit in the House of Lords, the highest judicial body for the United Kingdom until the creation of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.

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

Lincoln's Inn
One of the four Inns of Court based in London which every barrister in England and Wales must belong to before they are called to the Bar.

Lord Chancellor
Formerly the head of the judiciary the Lord Chancellor

Lord Chief Justice (LCJ)
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, who always holds the title of Lord Justice General, 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
The magistrates

Master of the Rolls (MoR)
The Master of the Rolls is one of the Heads of Division. He or she is also the leading judge dealing with the civil work of the Court of Appeal, presiding over the most difficult and sensitive cases. As a Head of Division and Member of the Privy Council, the Master of the Rolls is given the prefix 'Right Honourable'.

Process taking place outside a court to resolve a dispute.

Middle Temple
One of the four Inns of Court based in London which every barrister in England and Wales must belong to before they are called to the Bar.

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.

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 before Parliament.

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.

Queen's Counsel (QC)
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.

Sentencing Council
An independent body consisting of a Chairman, seven judges and six non-judicial members who develop sentencing guidelines and monitor the application of the guidelines by judges in court

A solicitor is a lawyer who provides clients with expert legal advice and assistance and prepares legal documents. He or she might work in a law firm or in central or local government, or an in-house legal department, for example, a bank or corporation.

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 were originally parts of the Supreme Court of England and Wales. With the creation of the Supreme...

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.

The 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 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 sit. Some are based on a presidential structure, whi...

Tribunals Service (TS)
The Tribunals Service was created in April 2006, as an Executive Agency of the Ministry of Justice. It established a unified administration for the tribunals system. The Tribunal Service aims to ensure that the public have the opportunity to exercise their rights and to seek effective redress against Government decisions, and to help settle disputes between employers and employees.

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

Vice Chancellor (VC)
The Chancellor of the High Court - known as the Vice Chancellor prior to the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 - is the president of the Chancery Division of the High Court and vice-president of the Court of Protection.

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 treatment.

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

Youth Justice Board (YJB)
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.