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Glossary of terms used in the criminal justice system



ACCUSED: the person who is alleged to have committed an offence

AQUIT: To find an accused person not guilty at a trial

ADJOURN: to delay a court matter until later that day, to a specified day or indefinitely

AFFIDAVIT: A document that contains facts given under oath and submitted in court as evidence

AFP: Australian Federal Police

AFP VICTIM LIAISON OFFICER (VLO): a person who can give the victim and their family information and support throughout the investigation

AFFIRM: a declaration or promise to the court that you will tell the truth in giving evidence (both written and verbal). This is an alternative to swearing on the bible

ALLEGATION: when someone accuses another person of having done something

APPEAL: a procedure that allows a party to challenge a decision made by a court

APPLICANT: the person applying for a court order

ARRAIGNMENT: After a defendant is committed to stand trial in the District or Supreme Court he/she must formally plead to the charges. This first appearance in the District or Supreme Court is the arraignment

ARREST: To apprehend or take into custody a person suspected of having committed a crime


BAIL: Once a person has been arrested and charged with an offence, that person must remain in gaol unless they have legal authority to be out of gaol. When a person receives this authority, they are granted bail. Bail may be on a promise by the accused to appear or with a guarantee and subject to conditions

BAIL CONDITIONS: conditions put on the person to ensure security in allowing the person bail. It can include conditions like reporting to the police, not having any contact with certain people, living at a certain place or having someone act as a surety for you

BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT: the standard of proof applied in a criminal trial/hearing

BREACH: to break a law or court order


CASE MANAGEMENT HEARING (CMH): when a plea of not guilty is entered the matter is usually set down for a Case Management Hearing. In the CMH the parties will check to see whether they are ready for the matter will be set down for hearing at a later date. If they change their plea to ‘guilty’ the matter will proceed to sentencing

CASE OFFICER: the police officer investigating the case. They are also known as the investigating officer or the police informant

CHARGE: an explanation of the law that police say has been have broken

CHARGED: when arrested the offender is charged. They are told what offence the police believe they have committed

CLIENT: individual receiving service from Side by Side or Victim Support ACT

CLOSED CIRCUIT TV (CCTV): where a person gives evidence from a room separate to the courtroom via video link using a camera and a TV which carries the witness’ voice and picture into the court room

CLOSED COURT: For certain matters a court may be closed to the public.

COMMITTAL HEARING: for more serious offences that must be heard in the supreme court, a magistrate must first hold a committal hearing to decide if there is enough evidence for it to proceed to the supreme court for trial

COMMUNITIES@WORK: acommunity based agency which manages the Side by Side program

COMPLAINANT: the person against whom it is alleged a crime has been committed

CONSENT ORDERS: an agreement between you and the other party which is approved by the court and then made into a court order

CONVICTION: a person can be convicted of an offence if they plead guilty or are found guilty which means it will appear on their criminal record.

COURT LISTS: the lists to refer to in order to find out which court room the case has been allocated to and at what time

COURT OFFICER: an individual employed by the courts who coordinates the flow of proceedings and people attending for matters

COURT ORDER: an order by the court that can prohibit someone from doing something or order someone to do something

CRCC: Canberra Rape Crisis Centre

CRIMINAL RECORD: a police record of your history in relation to criminal offences

CUSTODIAL OFFICER: escorts and supervises the person in custody


DEFENCE LAWYER: a lawyer who represents a person accused of a crime

DEFENDANT: In the Magistrates Court, the accused may be referred to as the defendant

DIRECTIONS: a court date where pre trial issues are sorted out

DIRECTORATE: administrative unit of the ACT Public Service

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ORDER (DVO): an order made under ACT law to protect a family member from violence and to set out conditions for the respondent

DPP: Director of Public Prosecutions

DVCS: Domestic Violence Crisis Service


EVIDENCE: evidence is presented to the court to support a certain version of events. It can include physical items, testimony in court from witnesses and various documents

EXHIBIT: A document or physical item tendered as evidence in a court hearing or referred to in an affidavit


FAMILY VIOLENCE: Occurs when a family member uses violent and/or abusive behaviour towards another family member or members.

FAMILY VIOLENCE LIST: A separate list at the Magistrates Court where all family violence matters are heard

FAS: Financial Assistance Scheme

FV: Family Violence


GOOD BEHAVIOUR ORDER: a penalty imposed that involves a promise to be of good behaviour. It may include promises to undertake community service, or to comply with other community based conditions on release

GUILTY PLEA: when the defendant admits to the offence they were charged with


HEARING: the presentation of a case at the Magistrates Court


INDICTABLE OFFENCE: a serious offence often heard in the Supreme Court

INDICTMENT: the formal document setting out a criminal allegation

INSTRUCTIONS: a person telling lawyer what they would like them to do

INTERIM ORDER: an order made by a court until another order or a final order is made


JUDGE: person in charge of the court in the Supreme Court

JUDGMENT: a decision by a court

JUDICIAL OFFICER: a person who the law says can hear and decide cases, such as a judge, federal magistrate or magistrate

JURISDICTION: the legal power of a court or the area that a court's legal power covers

JURY: a group of usually twelve people in a trial who decide if the accused is guilty or not guilty


LAWS: the rules that are made by parliament that all citizens must obey

LEGAL ARGUMENT: when the lawyers have a discussion about the rules of the court or interpretation of legislation

LEGISLATION: A proposed or enacted law or group of laws.


MAGISTRATE: person who is in charge of the court in the Magistrates Court

MEDIATION: where both parties try to sort out problems with the help of a qualified professional

MENTAL IMPAIRMENT: a disability, including intellectual disabilities, acquired brain injury, mental illness and dementia

MENTION: a court appearance in the Magistrates Court where a person first appears to answer the charges or to check on the progress of a matter


NON PAROLE PERIOD: when a sentence of imprisonment is imposed a non parole period will also be imposed. This is the minimum period the prisoner will serve before they are eligible for release

NOT GUILTY PLEA: when the defendant denies the offence they were charged with


OATH: An oath is what you make in court when you swear on a holy book to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth

OFFENCE: something that is against the law - an offence is another word for crime


PARTY: a person or legal entity involved in a case

PERSONAL PROTECTION ORDER: an order made under ACT law to protect people from violence by a person they are not related to and to set out conditions for the respondent

PLEA: the response in court to the charges. Please can be either guilty or not guilty

POLICE BRIEF: a collection of all the evidence in a case

PRECEDENT: a court decision that is used as an example or reason for later decisions

PROCEEDINGS: the court process in regard to a matter

PROOFING: A meeting between the victim/witness and the prosecutor to discuss the victims/witnesses evidence

PROSECUTOR: Prosecutors are lawyers that represent the interests of the community, not an individual person. Their job is to present all the evidence to the court where someone has broken the law. They are governed by a prosecution policy

PUBLIC GALLERY: The space in the Court where the public sits (at the back of the court room)


REGISTRAR: a person who works for the court and who has been given power to make certain decisions

REMOTE WITNESS: a witness giving evidence from a remote location via CCTV. This may be in a Court building or in a separate building.

RESPONDENT: a party named by an applicant as the other party

REVOKE: to cancel something, such as a court order


SBS: Side by Side, volunteers assisting victims of crime program abbreviation

SENTENCE: The penalty imposed on the accused if found they are found guilty or pleaded guilty

SOLICITOR: a lawyer who can advise a defendant about the law and represent them in court

STATEMENT: a written or recorded version of a person’s events

STATEMENT OF FACTS: a document setting out what the police allege happened

STATUTORY DECLARATION: a document that is signed in front of an authorised person, such as a justice of the peace

SUBPOENA OR SUMMONS: A legal document requiring attendance in court to give evidence and/or of the production of a document or exhibit

SUMMARY OFFENCE: a less serious offence usually heard in the Magistrates’ Court

SIDE BY SIDE: a program in which volunteers assist victims of crime through court support and assistance with forms

SUSPENDED SENTENCE: a penalty where the magistrate or judge decides to impose a prison sentence but suspends the sentence if the person agrees to be of good behaviour and/or comply with other conditions


TRANSCRIPT: a record of the spoken evidence in a court case

TRIAL: a court case in front of a Judge or jury in the Supreme Court


UNDERTAKING: a promise to the court to do or not do certain things


VERDICT: when the Magistrate, Judge or jury make a decision on whether or not the person is guilty as charged

VICTIM: a person who has had a crime committed against them

VICTIM IMPACT STATEMENT: a statement to the court about the impact of the crime on the victim. The statement can only be tendered to the court at sentencing

VSACT: Victim Support ACT

VSS: Victims Services Scheme


WARRANT: a court document that says what the police or sheriff can do, such as arrest someone or search their house

WAS: Witness Assistance Service, part of Director of Public Prosecutions

WITNESS: a person who tells the court about what they have seen or heard

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