Glossary of terms


A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

A

Accused
The person charged with committing the crime.

Affidavit
A statement, which is signed before a judicial officer or solicitor. The person signing the legal document states that the contents are, to the best of their knowledge, true

Affirmation
A promise to tell the truth in court. Used by people who do not wish to swear on the Bible or other religious book.

Alleged offender
Until a person is proved to be guilty of a crime, the person is an alleged offender. The offender may also be referred to as the accused.

Appeal
To take a case to a higher court in order to challenge a decision. The person who appeals is the appellant.

Apprehended Violence Orders (AVOs)
AVOs are court orders that protect people from physical assault, stalking, harassment, intimidation or damage to property by another person.

Arrest
The procedure where a person is taken into police custody to be charged with a criminal offence or to be brought before a court and must remain in police custody until they receive bail or until a court deals with their charges.

B

Bail
An agreement to turn up to court. The accused may be given bail by the police or the court. A person on bail is allowed to go free until their case is decided at court.

Beyond reasonable doubt
The test (or standard of proof) used by a jury, judge or magistrate to decide if the accused is guilty or not guilty of each criminal charge. It must be proved beyond reasonable doubt that a person has committed an offence before they can be convicted.

Breach
To break or to go against the rules or the law.

Brief or Brief of Evidence
This is a collection of statements from witnesses (both police and ordinary witnesses), medical reports, photographs, bail papers, charge sheets etc. that is given to the ODPP by the police after the police have finished their investigation and have charged the accused. The ODPP use the material contained within the brief of evidence to prosecute the accused.

Brief
The evidence in written form, including the charge(s), witness statements, photographs etc. that the prosecution intends to use to prove the case

C

Charge
The allegation that a person has committed a specific crime.

Charter of Victims Rights
Victims of crime in New South Wales have a Charter to protect and promote their rights. The Charter of Victims Rights obliges government agencies to ensure that a victim is at all times treated with courtesy and compassion, and that their rights and dignity are respected.

Child
Under the Children and Young Person's (Care and Protection) Act 1988 a child is defined as a person under the age of 16 years.

Children's Court
This is a special court (generally closed), which is used in most instances for hearings involving offenders under 18 years and for child protection matters.

Closed Circuit Television (CCTV)
This is a provision available to child witnesses and adult complainants in sexual assault matters so they can give evidence to the court from a remote location, via a television link to the courtroom. The Courtwise website provides you with an online tour of a courtroom, including the CCTV room.

Closed Court
When no one other than a witness support person can sit in the public gallery. The public are excluded and the press may be excluded.

Committal
A hearing of all the evidence at the Local Court by a magistrate who then decides if there is enough evidence for the case to go to trial.

Conviction
When a person accused of committing a criminal offence is guilty of that offence, a record of their guilt is recorded on their criminal history sheet.

Court
The building where the case is heard. Also used to describe in general terms the judicial officer hearing the case, such as a magistrate or judge.

Court Attendance Notice (CANs)
The notice issued to those accused of an offence requiring them to attend court.

Court Officer
A person employed to assist with the running of the court. Generally this person will call your name when you are required by the court to give evidence. They can answer queries about when your matter is likely to be heard.

Crime
An illegal (or unlawful) act.

Criminal history
A record of offences of which a person has been convicted.

Cross-examination
When the lawyer for the accused (defence) asks questions of the witness about the evidence they have given and other matters.

D

Defence
The accused person's case and the lawyers who represent them.

Defence counsel
A barrister who presents the accused person's case in court.

Department of Community Services (DoCS)
Promotes the safety and wellbeing of children and young people through a range of services including child protection.

Dock
An enclosure in a court where the accused sits during a trial.

E

Evidence
This is information provided to the court. Your statement forms the basis of the information or evidence that you will give in court, i.e. what you saw, heard or experienced.

Evidence-in-Chief/Examination-in-Chief
When the prosecutor asks the witness questions so that they can tell the court what happened.

Exhibits
All the other evidence (apart from statements from witnesses) needed to help present the case, such as documents, photographs, clothing or other items relevant to the case.

F

Forensic Evidence
Evidence found where the crime happened, such as fingerprints, results of blood tests, DNA etc.

Forensic Medical Examination/Procedure
The victim and/or accused may be requested to undergo an examination, such as a mouth swab and hair samples, in order to provide possible evidence for the case.

Forensic Patient
An accused person suffering from a mental illness so severe that at the time the crime was committed, the person could not form the intent to commit the crime. This term also refers to an accused person whose mental condition at the time of the trial renders him or her unfit to be tried. The accused is not unfit simply because he or she is unable to remember the events and unable to give a version to his or her counsel.

H

Hung Jury
If the majority of the people on a jury cannot agree whether the accused is guilty or not guilty it is called a hung jury.

I

Indictable Offence
A serious criminal offence that is usually heard in a higher court before a judge and jury (or judge alone). Less serious indictable offences are usually heard in a Local Court.

Indictment
The formal charge for more serious cases. Used in the District and Supreme Courts.

Instructing solicitor
A solicitor who helps with the preparation of the case and helps the barrister in court.

J

Judge
The Judge is in charge of the court and makes sure that it is run fairly for both sides. The Judge is called 'your honour'. The Judge decides the sentence of a convicted offender.

Jury
Twelve people who listen to all the evidence to decide if the accused person is guilty or not

L

Legal argument
An argument between the lawyers on both sides that has to be decided by the judge; the witness and jury are asked to leave the courtroom when this happens.

M

Magistrate
The person in charge of the Children's or Local Court who decides whether someone is guilty, not guilty or needs to be sent to the District Court for a trial; called 'your honour'.

Mention
A brief hearing to sort out what will happen with the case, such as setting a date for the committal hearing or deciding bail. It is not a full hearing of the case.

N

Non-Publication Order
If you are under 16 years of age or a victim of sexual assault, your name and other details cannot be published or broadcast in the media unless you want them to be.

O

Oath
A promise to tell the truth in court by swearing on a religious book that is important to the person making the promise.

Objections
When the defence or prosecution believe a question is not a fair one they can object and the judge/magistrate must decide based on the rules of the court.

ODPP
The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) is an independent body established by the State government to prosecute serious criminal offences. The ODPP provides a lawyer and/or Crown Prosecutor to prepare and present the case at court.

Offender
A person who does something which is prohibited by law.

Open Court
When people other than witnesses can sit in court.

P

Parties
There are two parties to the proceedings in a criminal matter, the crown and the accused (defence).

Plea
When the accused tells the court whether they are guilty or not guilty of the charge.

Police Prosecutor
A person from the police who will present the evidence against the person who is accused of breaking the law.

Pre-Sentence Report
A report to assist the court in deciding what sentence to give a person who is convicted of an offence.

Prosecutor/Prosecution
A police officer (Children's or Local Courts) or trial lawyer (from the ODPP) representing the government in a criminal case and the interests of the crown in a court. In criminal cases, the prosecutor has the responsibility of deciding who and when to prosecute.

Public Gallery
Seats at the back of the court where friends, family or anyone interested can sit quietly and listen.

R

Re-trial
A new trial of the same matter.

S

Sentencing
A range of penalties can be given during sentencing of a convicted offender including imprisonment, community service orders, good behaviour bonds and fines.

Sheriff's Officer
An officer responsible for security of all parties while at court. You can advise the Sheriff's Officer if you have any concerns for your safety.

Statement
A written document that sets out the evidence of a witness or an accused.

Subpoena
A court order to summon (make) a witness come to court to give evidence and/or bring documents to court.

Summary Hearing
A hearing to decide an offence in a Local Court by a Magistrate that is not sent for trial before a judge and jury.

Summary Offence
A charge that is dealt with in the local court.

Summing Up
A judge's review of the evidence and explanation of the law for a jury.

Summons
An order from the local court requiring the accused to come to court to answer a charge.

Support Person
Sometimes a witness will have a support person who can sit near them in the courtroom or remote room.

T

Transcript
A typed copy of what was said in the court.

Trial
A hearing in a court where all evidence is heard and a final decision is made.

U

Unanimous
This is where all members of the Jury agree that the accused is guilty or not guilty.

Unrepresented
If the accused does not have a lawyer.

V

Verdict
The decision of a jury in a criminal trial.

Victim
The person against whom a crime has been committed.

Victims Card
The Victims Card identifies the police officer's name, contact phone number, name of the police station and COPS Event Number. The other side of the card also contains the Charter of Victims Rights.

Victim Impact Statement (VIS)
A statement read or presented after conviction and before the sentencing of an offender that informs the court about the harm suffered by the victim arising from the offence.

W

Witness
Any person who has to come to court and answer questions in front of a Magistrate or Judge and jury.

Y

Young person

Under the Children and Young Person's (Care and Protection) Act 1998, a young person is defined as someone over the age of 16 years and under the age of 18.