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Glossary of court terms

The people in the courts

  • Accused
    The accused person is a person who has been changed with a crime. They may also be known as the defendant.
  • Barrister
    In criminal law, a lawyer who only speaks on behalf of their client in a court.
  • Clerk of court
    An officer who helps the magistrate in the Magistrates Court on the Judge in the Supreme Court.
  • Defence
    The accused/defendant person and their lawyer.
  • Defendant
    The person who is accused of' breaking the law is called the defendant, also known as the accused.
  • Judge
    The person who is in charge of court in the Supreme Court. The judge has the power to interpret and apply the law, and to decide how a person should be punished if they have been found guilty of breaking the law.
  • Judge's associate
    A person who assists the judge.
  • Jury
    A group of 12 ordinary people who don't know anything about the accused/ defendant, what has happened to you or what you saw or what you heard. They have been chosen to listen to what everyone in the court has to say and decide if it has been proven that the accused/defendant broke the law.
  • Lawyer
    A person who is trained in the law. A lawyer advises people about the law and can speak for them in court.
  • Police
    The police have the responsibility of maintaining law and order by protecting people.
  • Prosecutor
    A lawyer who calls witnesses and presents evidence in court to show that the accused/defendant is guilty. A prosecutor can also be a police officer.
  • Support person
    This person is there for you while you are at court. They sit with you while you are giving your evidence from the remote witness room. This person has to be approved by the judge and may be from the Child Witness Support Service. Your support person cannot be a person who is giving evidence.
  • Magistrate
    A person who is in charge of court in the Magistrates Court. The magistrate also decides whether cases are serious enough to be passed on to a higher court, such as the Supreme Court.
  • Witness
    A person who appears in a court to answer questions from the prosecutor and the defence lawyer.

The work of the courts

  • Acquit
    When a person has been acquitted this means there has not been enough evidence presented to prove in court that the accused/defendant is guilty of a crime.
  • Affirmation
    When people make an affirmation to the court this means they promise to tell the truth about what happened.
  • Convict
    When a person has been convicted there has been enough evidence to prove in court that the accused/defendant is guilty of a crime.
  • Court
    A place where the information about crimes by people are heard. This happens in front of a magistrate or a judge so a decision about whether or not the accused/defendant is 'guilty' on 'not guilty'.
  • Court case
    When all of the evidence is presented about a crime.
  • Courthouse
    The building where the courts are.
  • Courtroom
    This is the place where people listen to evidence.
  • Crime
    Something that is against the law and for which people can be punished.
  • Defence
    A story of the accused/defendant as told in the court.
  • Dock
    A place in a courtroom. This is where the accused person is placed with a securityofficer.
  • Evidence
    The information given to the court to show what happened. Witnesses give evidence by telling the people court about what they saw or what they heard. Sometimes things like clothing, photographs or letters are also shown to the court.
  • Hearing
    A general term for when all of the evidence from the accused/defendant and prosecutor is presented in court.
  • Oath
    When people take an oath in court this means that they are promising to tell the truth about what they saw or what they heard.
  • Trial by jury
    12 ordinary people are chosen to make the decision about whether or not the accused/defendant is guilty or not guilty. The Judge acts as a guide to the jury about the law. This only happens in the Supreme Court.

Other terms

  • Adjourn
    To delay a court event to a future date.
  • Statement
    A written story told by you or other witnesses about a possible crime.
  • Bail
    In criminal proceedings, when a person is allowed to leave a jail, prison or remand centre with special rules that a judge or magistrate says they must follow. The accused / defendant leaves the jail, prison or remand centre before it is proved they are 'guilty' or 'not guilty'
  • Charge
    When someone is accused by the police of breaking the law the police can charge them.
  • Complainant
    A person who has been affected by a crime yet to be proved.
  • Conviction
    A recording by the court when the accused/defendant is proved guilty of a crime.
  • Cross examination
    This happens when one party questions the other party's witness in court. For example, the defence questions the witnesses appearing for the prosecution.
  • Custody
    In criminal law this means being taken into control by a police officer or an officer of the court. An accused person (or defendant) can be held in custody in jail, prison or a remand centre.
  • DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions)
    These prosecutors act for complainants in the Supreme Court. They are all lawyers.
  • Guilty
    When the accused/defendant is found 'guilty' it means the prosecution were able to prove in court that the accused/defendant broke the law.
  • Law
    The law is a set of rules that people must follow. If people do not follow the rules then they are said to be breaking the law.
  • Not guilty
    When the accused/defendant is found 'not guilty' it means the prosecution weren't able to prove in court that the law had been broken.
  • Magistrates Court
    A magistrate is in charge of this court that you may be helping out in. This court is a lower court than the Supreme Court. Sometimes you may start in the Magistrates Court but then you may have to go to the Supreme Court.
  • Supreme Court
    A judge is in charge of this court that you may be helping out in. This court is a higher court than the Magistrates Court and you may have to give evidence to a jury here.
Updated: 4th April 2022