Glossary of terms and court members
Who's who in court?
There are three kinds of court that you may be called to: a magistrates’ court, a Crown Court, and a youth court (which may be held in a magistrates’ court building).
Who is in court and how it is set up depends on what type of hearing it is. For the first hearing, there are likely to be you, the defence and prosecution solicitors and the magistrates. If your case then goes to trial in the Crown Court, there may be a jury and witnesses at later hearings.
Magistrates’ courts and Crown Courts are usually open to the public (including friends and relatives of those involved in the case) and often have a section for the public to sit in. In a youth court, members of the public are only allowed if a court official invites them and the court agrees.
Most cases that go to court are dealt with in magistrates’ courts. In a magistrates’ court, the case will first be heard by one, two or three magistrates (sometimes called justices of the peace or JPs), or one district judge. There is no jury in a magistrates’ court.
A clerk sits in front of the magistrates and gives them legal and procedural advice and deals with the administrative work. Wigs are rarely worn in magistrates' courts but the usher may wear a gown. You may be asked to sit in the dock.
If you have pleaded not guilty, the magistrates or the district judge will listen to all the evidence and decide whether or not you are guilty. This is not all likely to happen at the first hearing. If you are found guilty, or plead guilty in court, the magistrates or district judge will usually decide on an appropriate sentence.
Young people aged from 10 to 17 are dealt with mainly in the youth courts by specially trained magistrates and district judges and no jury.
More serious cases are heard in a Crown Court. If you have pleaded not guilty, a trial will take place in front of a judge and a jury. The jury of 12 members of the public will listen to all the evidence and decide if you are guilty or not.
The judge is there to make decisions on legal issues and decide on the sentence. An usher helps out at the court and will bring you into the court when your case is called. The judge and the lawyers (solicitors and barristers) may wear gowns and white wigs.
Making a plea
The court process is often long and complicated. To make it easier for you and everyone else, you should get advice from a solicitor as soon as possible, and you must make sure you turn up to court.
At court you will be known as the defendant. This is another word for the accused, and means that you are there to defend the charges against you. Your solicitor will be known as the defence solicitor.
The other side is the prosecution. Normally, the Crown Prosecution Service (who are independent from the police), prepare and present the charges against you.
There are several stages in the court process, and at your first appearance you will normally be asked to plead guilty or not guilty to the offence or offences you are charged with. Your solicitor will be able to give you advice to help you decide how to plead.
If you committed the offence, you can plead guilty at any stage in the process. The earlier you plead guilty, the more likely you will be to receive a lower sentence, and the earlier the plea, the greater the ‘sentence discount’.
If you plead guilty, the court will then pass sentence (go to the ‘Sentencing’ section of this website to see what will happen). If you plead not guilty, the case will probably go no further that day, and a date will be set for your next hearing. The court will also decide if you will be given bail while you wait for the trial.
There are a number of situations in which reporting restrictions either apply automatically, or can be specifically ordered by a court.
Automatic restrictions apply to:
reports of preliminary/committal proceedings in magistrates' courts in England. You can only report certain very basic details.
petition proceedings in Scotland which may be reported in a restricted way.
Proceedings under the Children Act. You must not publish anything which is likely to identify any child as being involved in such proceedings.
These restrictions can be lifted or varied by a court.
Some of the more common reporting restrictions which may be ordered include:
"Section 39 orders", preventing the identification of under eighteens involved in proceedings before an adult court.
"Postponement orders", preventing publication of reports of proceedings until after the conclusion of related proceedings or until the court lifts or varies the restrictions.
"Anonymity orders", where the court has allowed a person's details to be withheld, for example in blackmail cases.
Who's who in court?
The people who make up a magistrates' court are:
Magistrates (usually three)
Lawyers (prosecuting and defence)
Witnesses (prosecuting and defence)
Court reporters work for local or national press.
This can be for newspapers, radio, TV and online reports.
They can ask anyone for a comment about the trial, apart from the magistrates.
They can take photographs outside the court and can make sketches of what's going on inside.
The clerk makes sure that the magistrates have all the information they need.
The clerk announces the defendant and reads the charge to them.
At the end of the trial, the clerk reads out a summary of the law that applies.
A lawyer is someone you go to if you have a problem that needs a legal remedy. For example, if you have been arrested or hurt in a road accident.
There are always at least two lawyers.
They are split into two groups, prosecution and defence, and both question witnesses to get at the facts of the case.
The prosecution tries to persuade the magistrates that the defendant is guilty of the charge.
The defence attempts to prove that the defendant is not guilty.
The witnesses give their versions of what happened at the time.
They are split into two groups, prosecution and defence.
They are called individually to the witness box and have to swear that they will tell the truth.
They are asked questions by the lawyers about what happened from their point of view.
The usher makes sure that the trial runs smoothly.
They make sure that all the witnesses are seated in the right places behind the lawyers and show the public where to sit.
When the magistrates are ready to enter the court, the usher asks everyone to stand. They do the same when the magistrates leave.
They escort the witnesses to and from the witness box where they are 'sworn in'.
The court takes no further action against an offender, but the offender's discharge will appear on his or her criminal record.
The person charged. The person who has allegedly committed the offence
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF SERVICE
Form of reply to, or confirmation of, service of process
Discharge of defendant following verdict or direction of not guilty
Law, as an act of parliament
Temporary suspension of the hearing of a case by order of the Court (maybe for a short period, eg to next day or without a date being given).
Judgment or decision of a Court or tribunal
A barrister or solicitor representing a party in a hearing before a Court
Declaration by a witness who has no religious belief, or has religious beliefs that prevent him/her taking the oath, that the evidence he/she is giving is the truth
Before - An indication within text to refer to an earlier passage
Application to a higher Court or authority for review of a decision of a lower Court or authority
The higher court to which cases are sent when either the defence or prosecution wish to challenge the resolt from a Magistrates or Crown Court.
Person who appeals
Lawfol detention by a police officer.
ASSISTED PERSON (LEGALLY)
A party to legal proceedings who is receiving legal aid
ATTACHMENT OF EARNINGS
An order that directs an employer of a debtor to deduct regolarly an amount, fixed by the Court, from the debtor's earnings and pay that sum into Court
Government Minister responsible for prosecutions and the Crown Prosecution Service.
Release of a defendant from custody, until his/her next appearance in Court, subject sometimes to security being given and/or compliance with certain conditions
The collective term for barristers
BARRISTER (see COUNSEL; SILK)
A member of the bar: the branch of the legal profession which has rights of audience before all Courts
A warrant issued by the magistrates or judge for an absent defendant to be arrested and brought before a Court either on bail or in custody
In the Crown Court or (more usually) the Magistrates Court, and signed by an officer of the Court
BIND OVER FOR SENTENCE
An order which requires the defendant to return to Court on an unspecified date for sentence. Failure to observe this order may resolt in a forfeit or penalty to be enforced
Written instructions to counsel to appear at a hearing on behalf of a party prepared by the solicitor and setting out the facts of the case and any case law relied upon
A meeting between a solicitor and/or barrister and their client
A reference number allocated to each case by the court or other criminal justice organisation
Simple Caution – non-statutory warning given to adults (18+) by the police, following admission of guilt, as an alternative to prosecution, which though not a conviction forms part of a person’s criminal record Conditional Caution – warning under the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (with reparative and/or rehabilitative conditions attached), given by the police after a CPS decision to issue and following admission of guilt, to adults (18+) as an alternative to prosecution, which though not a conviction forms part of a person’s criminal record
CERTIFICATE OF LEGAL AID COSTS
A certificate of costs allowed following taxation by a judicial or taxing officer (Previously referred to as an Allocator)
Private room, or Court from which the public are excluded in which a District Judge or Judge may conduct certain sorts of hearings Offices used by a barrister
A formal accusation against a person
A judge who sits in the Crown Court
Matters concerning private rights and not offences against the state
COMMISSIONER OF OATHS
Solicitors authorised by the Lord Chancellor to administer oaths and affirmations to a statement of evidence
Committal for Trial: Following examination by the Magistrates of a case involving an either way offence the procedure of directing the case to the Crown Court to be dealt with Committal for Sentence: Where the Magistrates consider that the offence justifies a sentence greater than they are empowered to impose they may commit the defendant to the Crown Court for sentence to be passed by a judge Committal Order: An order of the Court committing someone to prison Committal Warrant (see WARRANT OF COMMITTAL)
The law established by previous cases decided
Alternatives to prison, community punishment, non-custodial options, Community sentences Sentences of the court which deal with the offender in the community rather than in prison. These include community punishment, community rehabilitation orders and drug treatment and testing orders.
COMMUNITY PUNISHMENT AND REHABILITATION ORDER
Between 40-100 hours of unpaid work for the community, alongside a programme of work designed to deal with the offending behaviour and personal improvement supervised by the Probation Service.
COMMUNITY PUNISHMENT ORDER
Community Punishment (formerly a Community Service Order) is a community sentence in which offenders work unpaid for up to 240 hours on local community projects under close supervision.
COMMUNITY REHABILITATION ORDER
Community Rehabilitation (formerly a Probation Order) is a community sentence which involves regolar contact with the Probation Service. May also include attending an Offending Behaviour Programme to tackle the reasons why the crime was committed.
Sum of money to make up for or make amends for loss, breakage, hardship, inconvenience or personal injury caused by another
A court order requiring the offender to pay compensation to the victim.
A direction by a Court that a number of sentences of imprisonment or community penalty shoold run at the same time
A discharge of a convicted defendant without sentence on condition that he/she does not re-offend within a specified period of time
Money paid to a witness in advance of the hearing of a case as compensation for time spent attending Court
An order for a subsequent sentence of imprisonment or community penalty to commence as soon as a previous sentence expires. Can apply to more than two sentences
CONTEMPT OF COURT
An offence, punishable by imprisonment, of disobedience or wilful disregard to the judicial process
When an offender has pleaded or been found guilty of an offence in a court he or she is said to have been convicted. The conviction then appears on the offender's criminal record.
Evidence by one person confirming that of another or supporting evidence, for example forensic evidence (bloodstain, fibres etc) in murder cases
An individual offence set out in an indictment
Body with judicial powers (see also COURT ROOM)
COURT OF APPEAL
Divided into: civil and, criminal divisions and hears appeals: from decision in the High Court and County Courts and, against convictions or sentences passed by the Crown Court
The room in which cases are heard
Person who is guilty of a criminal offence
CRIMINAL CASES REVIEW COMMISSION
Public body responsible for investigating alleged miscarriages of justice.
The Crown Court deals with all crime committed or sent 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 the Magistrates
CROWN PROSECUTION SERVICE (CPS)
The Crown Prosecution Service decides whether there is enough evidence to take a case to court, and whether it woold be in the public interest. After the decision to prosecute has been taken the CPS lawyer or solicitor represents the CPS in court.
A curfew order is similar to house arrest. People must stay indoors, usually at their home, for the curfew period. A tag, worn on the ankle or wrist, notifies monitoring services if the offender is absent during the curfew hours.
Sentences where the offender is locked up in a prison, Young Offender Institution or Secure Training Centre.
In fact - "As a matter of fact"
Person sued; person standing trial or appearing for sentence.
DEPARTMENT FOR CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS
The department in government responsible for upholding justice, rights and democracy.
The offender is found guilty of the offence, and the conviction appears on his or her criminal record, but either no further action is taken at all(absolute discharge, or no further action is taken as long as the offender does not offend again in a certain period of time (conditional discharge).
A decision by the Crown Prosecution Service not to continue with a case
A legally qualified person who sits in place of, or with magistrates. Previously known as a stipendiary magistrate
The Divisional Court of the Queen's Bench Division deals largely with certain appeals on points of law from many Courts
Enclosure in criminal Court for the defendant on trial
DRUG TREATMENT AND TESTING ORDER (DTTO)
A sentence for drug users who receive treatment for their drug use and have to give regolar urine tests to make sure they are not using drugs.
(see INDICTABLE OFFENCE, SUMMARY OFFENCE) An offence for which the accused may be tried by the magistrates or by committal to the Crown Court to be tried by jury
An offender or person on bail, on a curfew order or Home Detention Curfew at the end of a prison sentence, has an electronic tag. The tag, worn on the ankle or wrist, notifies monitoring services if the offender is absent during the curfew hours.
Item or document used as evidence during a Court trial or hearing
Person employed to give evidence on a subject in which they are qualified or have expertise.
A sentence of the court which involves the offender paying money to the court as punishment for their crime.
A civil Court which consists of three divisions: Queen's Bench (can be known as King's Bench Division if a King is assuming the throne) - civil disputes for recovery of money, including breach of contract, personal injuries, libel/slander Family - concerned with matrimonial maters and proceedings relating to children, eg wardship Chancery - property matters including fraud and bankruptcy
HER MAJESTY'S COURTS SERVICE
Her Majesty's Courts Service administers the civil, family and criminal courts in England and Wales. This covers Crown, county and magistrates' courts.
HIGH COURT JUDGE see JUDGE and HIGH COURT
HOME DETENTION CURFEW (HDC)
A prisoner serving a sentence of between 8 months and 4 years can be released up to 90 days early under strict curfew arrangements and wearing an electronic tag.
Government department responsible for all national issues such as crime and immigration
A criminal offence that can only be tried by the Crown Court. The different types of offence are classified 1, 2, 3 or 4. Murder is a class 1 offence
A written statement of the charges against a defendant sent for trial to the Crown Court, and signed by an officer of the Court
An officer appointed to administer the law and who has authority to hear and try cases in a Court of law
Final decision of a Court
Relating to the administration of justice or to the judgment of a Court A judge or other officer empowered to act as a judge
JUROR (see JURY)
A person who has been summoned by a Court to be a member of the jury
Body of 12 people sworn to try a case and reach a verdict according to the evidence in a Court
JUSTICE OF THE PEACE
A lay magistrate - person appointed to administer judicial business in a Magistrates Court. Also sits in the Crown Court with a judge or recorder to hear appeals and committals for sentence
The area and matters over which a Court has legal authority.
The system of roles established by an act of parliament, custom or practice
Describes the judges of the House of Lords who are known as the Lords of Appeal in ordinary.
General term used to describe barristers (who usually work in the Crown Court and Appeal Court) and solicitors.
Facility for the fees and expenses of counsel, solicitors or other legal representatives retained by those of modest means to be paid from a fund administered by the Legal Aid Board
This form is used to ensure that all issues are resolved and that the parties are ready for trial
The cabinet minister who acts as speaker of the House of Lords and oversees the hearings of the Law Lords. Additional responsibilities include supervising the procedure of Courts other than Magistrates or Coroners Courts and selection of judges, magistrates, queens counsel and members of tribunals. The Lord Chancellor is also the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs.
LORD CHIEF JUSTICE
Senior judge of the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) who also heads the Queens Bench Division of the High Court of Justice)
LORD JUSTICE OF APPEAL
Title given to certain judges sitting in the Court of Appeal
Someone who sits as part of a group of three and acts as a judge in the Magistrates court. Magistrates in England and Wales are trained volunteers.
A Court where criminal proceedings are commenced before Justices of the Peace, or District Judges, who examine the evidence/statements and either deal with the case themselves or commit to the Crown Court for trial or sentence
The explanation for the offence given on behalf of a guilty party in order to excuse or partly excuse the offence committed in an attempt to minimise the sentence
Someone who is authorised to swear oaths and certify the execution of deeds
Offence deemed serious enough to be recorded by the Police. Includes most indictable and triable-either-way offence.
OATH (see AFFIRMATION)
A verbal promise by a person with religious beliefs to tell the truth
Someone who has been convicted of a crime.
OFFENDING BEHAVIOUR PROGRAMME (OBP)
A programme of work undertaken with an offender which is designed to tackle the reasons or behaviour which leads to his or her offending. Examples of Offending Behaviour Programmes are: Substance-related Offending; Drink Impaired Drivers; Aggression Replacement Therapy; Sex Offender Treatment Programme; Integrated Domestic Abuse Programme.
A direction by a Court
A defendant's reply to a charge put to him by a court; ie guilty or not guilty
After - An indication to refer to something to be found further on
The decision of a case which established principles of law that act as an authority for future cases of a similar nature
A preliminary appointment at which the magistrates or District Judge consider the issues before the Court and fixes the timetable for the trial.
The National Probation Service's work with offenders combines continuous assessment and management of risk and dangerousness with the provision of expert supervision programmes designed to reduce re-offending.
The institution or conduct of criminal proceedings against a person
Person who prosecutes - usually the Crown Prosecution Service (see PROSECUTION)