Frequently used words and phrases in the court room

Affidavit A written statement made on oath, given in the place of verbal evidence
Affirmation A declaration made instead of taking an oath
Appellate Court/Jurisdiction Court or Jurisdiction which has the power to hear appeals
Application A request made to a Court, eg., application for bail, application for an adjournment
Arraign/ Arraignment The reading of the charges to the accused in a criminal matter and the
recording of the accused’s answers as to whether he/she pleads guilty or not guilty
Balance of probabilities The onus or standard of proof required in civil matters
Beyond reasonable doubt The onus of proof required in criminal cases.
Burden of proof The obligation to prove what is alleged. In a criminal trial the burden of proof is
upon the prosecution, the accused does not have to prove anything. In a civil trial it is the plaintiff or
claiming party which has the onus of proof
Case Conference A pre-trial hearing which initiates the hearing of the case in Court. Under the
guidance of the Judge (in Crime) parties attempt to resolve issues prior to the formal trial commencing
Charge (to jury) Directions given to the Jury by the Trial Judge with respect to the law to be
applied to the facts in a case
Circumstantial Evidence which does not directly prove a case, but from which an inference may
be drawn
Cross-Examination After examination-in-chief of a witness called by one party, the other party
has a right to question or cross-examine the witness. The questions are not confined to matters raised
in examination-in-chief and leading questions may be asked (
Custodial/non-custodial A custodial sentence is one served in prison whereas a non-custodial
sentence is one served in the community.
Damages A Court assessment (whether by Judge alone or by a jury) of compensation for a loss or
injury suffered as a result of a civil wrong or breach of contract
Deposition/s Documents produced by the Prosecution which constitute the basis of evidence upon
which the Prosecution seeks to prove its case
Discover/discovery A procedure by which documents relevant to the action are disclosed to the
other party, before the case comes on for hearing
Evidence-in-Chief Evidence elicited by Counsel for the party calling the witness
Exhibit Any item tendered in Court that is to be part of the evidence in a case
Finding of fact A determination by a Judge or jury with respect to the facts of a case
Hostile witness A witness called by a party, who then gives evidence unfavourable to that party.
The party can apply to have the witness declared hostile and can then cross-examine that witness
In camera A Court hearing wherein only those persons authorised by the Court are present
Indictable offence An offence which can be heard before a Judge and jury
Indictment (formerly Presentment) Document produced by the Office of Public Prosecutions
setting out the charges against an accused.
Infant Person under 18 years of age who does not have full legal capacity.
Injunction A Court order that prevents someone from doing something
Last update 24 February 2012
Legal Practitioner A person admitted to practice as a barrister or solicitor within a Federal, State
or Territory court.
Litigant Person bringing legal proceedings before a Court
Mens rea A guilty mind. The state of mind required to constitute a particular crime. A knowledge
of the wrongfulness of an act
Minimum term (non-parole period) The term of imprisonment which must be served before
being eligible for parole (see also Parole)
Mitigating circumstances Circumstances of an offence and other relevant considerations which
may reduce the sentence imposed
Non-parole period The term of imprisonment which must be served before being eligible for
Non-Publication order A Court order preventing publication of certain information about a
particular case.
Oath (juror, witness, jury keeper, jury separation) A solemn promise made by a person before
his God that he will say what is the truth, or will do what he promises to do
OPP Office of Public Prosecutions. Government agency responsible for the conduct of criminal
matters on behalf of the Director of Public Prosecutions
Parole The release of a prisoner or detainee from custody after the completion of a minimum
period of imprisonment or detention. The parole period is supervised by the Adult Parole Board
(prisoners) or Youth Parole Board (detainees)
Particulars (of damage) The details of the claim (or the defence) in an action which are necessary
in order for the other party to know what case has to be met
Perjury An offence at common law of making a false statement on oath or affirmation, in a judicial
proceeding concerning a matter material to the proceeding, while knowing that the statement is false,
or not believing it to be true
Plaintiff Person bringing a proceeding in a civil matter
Plea (i) The requirement that an accused person answer the charges made against him/her
(ii) The type of hearing when a person pleads guilty to charges including the submissions made to the
Court by counsel on behalf of the prisoner, prior to sentencing
To plead – to answer the charges
For plea – having pleaded guilty or been found guilty by jury verdict, the hearing of submissions prior
to sentencing
Remand An order that the defendant be kept in custody
Remote witness Witness who gives evidence to the Court from a location away from the Court
room. It may be from another room in the building or a location in another place where equipment is
Respondent The person responding to an appeal
Restitution Compensation made for loss of monies or goods
Security (ie., (for bail) Property, usually money, provided to the Court to guarantee attendance at
Court when required, of a person granted bail
Slander A verbal statement defaming another person’s reputation
Subpoena A summons compelling a person to attend Court to give evidence or produce
documents to the Court
Last update 24 February 2012
Tort A breach of a duty imposed by civil law, such as negligence, defamation and trespass
Warrant A legal document usually signed by a Judge or Magistrate authorizing a specified person
to perform certain acts eg., to arrest a person and bring him/her before the court
Weight of evidence The degree to which an item of evidence tends to prove a fact in issue
Writ A written order of the Court commanding a person to do or refrain from doing an act. There
are many types of writ. The issuing of a writ is the main method of originating civil proceedings in
the County Court

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