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glossary
 
 
Here you can find the meaning of some words which may be unfamiliar.
Simply select the initial letter of the word you are looking for.
 
     
 
  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  
 
     
 
We hope you find it useful!
 
 
 
 
 
 
A
Accused
A person on trial who has been charged with breaking the law.
Adjournment
Break in court proceedings. This may be for lunch, overnight or to a completely new date.
Advocate depute
An advocate or senior Procurator Fiscal who works only for the prosecution and prosecutes only in the High Court – see Procurator Fiscal.
Affirmation
Used instead of the oath in court. It means you promise to tell the truth. (See Oath).
The religious promise a witness makes that they will tell the truth when they give evidence in court – a witness can also promise or affirm to tell the truth. (See Oath)
Age of Criminal Responsibility
In Scotland, children are thought to be responsible for what they do by the time they are eight.
Any child involved in crime will usually be dealt with by the Children’s Reporter Administration, rather than the Procurator Fiscal.
Allegation
Something that someone says has happened.
Appeal
Challenge to the accused’s conviction and/or sentence.
The prosecution can only appeal against an unduly lenient sentence.
Appear on petition
Accused’s preliminary (first) appearances in court.
These are held in private.
The accused will be granted bail or remanded in custody (see Remand or remanded in custody when a person is kept a police cell or prison before a court appearance.).
B
bail

(see also Undertaking).
Often called police bail. After the police arrest someone they may release them from the police station if the person signs a document undertaking (promising) to come to court on the date the police have given them. They must agree to other conditions such as not committing any other crimes.)
When a person is released from custody by a court.
They have to agree to certain conditions before they are released.
For instance, they must promise not to commit any more crimes while on bail, or to interfere with, or cause alarm or distress to witnesses.

Bar officer

(in the sheriff court)
A person who helps the Judge, looks after people in court and calls each witness into court.
They may also be asked to show a witness different pieces of evidence, such as clothing, photographs or other items. Also known as court officer.

C
Charge
The crime that the accused person is appearing in court about.
Charge (to the jury)
The Judge’s legal direction to a jury in matters of law and evidence before they decide on their verdict.
Children's Hearing

This is when the Children's Panel, family, child and other people meet to discuss the concerns about a child which have been agreed or proved at court. Click here for more information about the Youth Justice Process.

Children's Hearing court case

The legal action at court when witnesses give evidence in support of, or against, the children's reporter's case which has to be proved or agreed before any children's hearing can take place.

Children's Reporter

The person who presents the children's hearing court case and requests witnesses to attend.
They ask questions in court and look after a child's interest but do not represent the child.

Citation
A formal letter which tells a witness to attend court to give evidence at a trial. It will say where the court is, and what time and date the witness should be there.
Clerk (of court)

The person responsible for the management of the court and jurors.
The clerk is the main point of contact with the Judge, keeps the court papers and ensures the correct recording of all proceedings, including the verdict.

Committal for further examination

At the end of the accused’s first court appearance they will either be granted bail or remanded in custody until full committal for trial.

Committing a crime

The same as breaking the law.

Complaint

A statement accusing someone of breaking the law – it can also be a court document in the Sheriff Court describing the crime the accused is in court about.

Copy Complaint

Formal letter from the Procurator Fiscal to an accused person,
telling them what they have been charged with and when to appear in court.

Corroboration

An accused cannot be convicted of a crime unless there is evidence from at least two independent sources that the crime was committed and that the accused was responsible for it.

Court case

An individual trial or action in court.

Court familiarisation visit

A visit to the court before the trial to allow a witness to see what a court looks like and learn more about court procedures. It can be arranged in advance of the trial through Victim Information and Advice or the Witness Service.

Court officer

(sometimes called a macer)
A person who helps the Judge and looks after people in court – they also call each witness into court.

Court police / security officers

They will be there to make sure that everyone in the court is well behaved and safe.

Crime / Offence

These two words have basically the same meaning.
A crime or an offence is an act, attempted act or omission which is prohibited by the law and for which a punishment may be imposed.

Criminal Court Case

The legal action at court which decides matters involving crime. Also known as criminal proceedings.

Cross examination

Being questioned by the other lawyer(s) after the person who has asked the witness to come to court – see Examination (in-chief) / cross examinationThis is the first set of questions the witness is asked by one of the lawyers in a trial. Prosecution witnesses are asked questions by the prosecutor first, defence witnesses by the defence lawyer. The other lawyer then asks their own questions

Crown Counsel

Senior prosecutors (also called Advocates Depute) who decide whether a criminal prosecution should take place against whom and on what charges.

Crown Office

In charge of bringing cases to court. Sometimes used as a short version of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.

Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service

COPFS is responsible for the prosecution of crime in Scotland, the investigation of sudden or suspicious deaths and the investigation of complaints against the police.

Culpable Homicide

This is when the accused has caused the loss of life through wrongful conduct, but where there was no intention to kill or “wicked recklessness”.
This may also be considered where in law the accused is found to be of “diminished responsibility” because of some mental illness, or where there was provocation.

Custody

When a person is kept in prison, unless they are in police custody, when they are kept in a police cell.

D
Defence lawyer / defence counsel

A lawyer who represents the accused and helps the accused in court.

DNA

Deoxyribonucleic Acid. A substance that is found in all cells in a human body.
Police take samples of this by swabbing the inside of a person’s mouth.
The cells found in this swab can be used to identify someone.

Domestic Abuse Liaison Officer (DALO)

Most police forces have officers who are specially trained to deal with domestic abuse.
They work closely with other agencies to make sure that as much as possible is done to help victims.

E
Evidence

What a witness says in court – it can also be things like photographs, clothes or drawings that are brought to court to show what happened.(see Productions).
Things which are shown in court as evidence such as letters or clothes.

Examination (in-chief) / cross examination

This is the first set of questions the witness is asked by one of the lawyers in a trial.
Prosecution witnesses are asked questions by the prosecutor first, defence witnesses by the defence lawyer.
The other lawyer then asks their own questions. (see Cross examination)

F
Family Liaison Officer (FLO)

The specially trained police officer who acts as the contact with the police investigation and keeps families informed of developments where there has been a murder, culpable homicide or, sometimes, a road death. They may also be used in some other cases.

Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI)

A public hearing in front of a Sheriff, usually at the Sheriff Court nearest to where the death happened.
The purpose of an FAI is to establish whether a death could have been prevented and whether any action is needed to protect the public from danger in the future.

First Calling

The first time a case is called in court.

Forensic evidence

The scientific evidence collected from a victim, a crime scene and others, such as fingerprints and DNA. Samples may be gathered from a victim by ‘forensic examination’. (See DNA)

Full committal

The second appearance by the accused in court (if they were remanded in custody).
It takes place in private. It is held to confirm that the accused should be brought to trial. The accused will be granted bail or remanded in custody.

G
Guilty

This means that the evidence has been enough to prove 'beyond reasonable doubt' that the accused person committed the crime or part of the crime.
The Judge will then be asked to consider any sentence or punishment.

H
Hearing

Any time that part of the trial takes place in a court.
There can be several hearings in the course of a trial.

Home Detention Curfew

A form of early release on licence from prison.
Offenders are subject to curfew conditions and are monitored by an electronic device sometimes known as a tag. More information is available here.

I
Identification

When a witness points out the person he or she has been talking about – this sometimes happens before the court case starts or it can happen in court.

Indictment

A court document in the High court or Sheriff and Jury court - it describes the crime that the accused appears in court about.

J
Judge

The person in charge of a trial in the High Court and in control of what happens in the courtroom.
In a Sheriff Court, the Judge is called a Sheriff.
The Judge oversees the trial and decides on the sentence.

Jury

Fifteen men and women (jurors) who listen to the evidence and decide if the accused is guilty or not.
There isn't always a jury (in some cases – called summary proceedings – a Sheriff hears the evidence and decides on the verdict).

L
Lawyer

A person qualified to give advice about the law.

Licence

When an offender is released from prison before the end of their sentence, the licence sets out the conditions of behaviour which they must meet.

Lord Advocate
Scotland’s senior prosecutor with overall responsibility for prosecuting crime.
M
Macer

Officer of court who attends to the Judge and assists with witnesses and productions in the trial.

Murder

Is committed when the accused has acted with the intention of killing or where the accused’s conduct has been “wickedly reckless”.

N
Not proven / not guilty

Not proven or not guilty means there was not enough evidence to prove the case 'beyond reasonable doubt', or that there were other special reasons why the accused was not found guilty.
Both these verdicts have the same effect and mean that the accused will be free to leave the court and cannot be tried again for the same offence.

O
Oath

The religious promise a witness makes that they will tell the truth when they give evidence in court – a witness can also promise or affirm to tell the truth. (See Affirmation)

Offender
Someone who has committed the offence or alleged to have committed the offence.
P
Parole
When a long term prisoner is let out of jail before the end of the sentence.
The prisoner is still under supervision. (see Supervision)
Petition

The first document which sets out the charge(s) against the accused and starts the formal court process.

Plea

The answer the accused gives to the court at the beginning of court proceedings when he or she is asked if he or she is guilty or not guilty.

Pleading Diet

The first time a summary case is called in court. It gives the accused person a chance to plead guilty or not guilty. If the plea is not guilty, a trial will be arranged.

Plea in mitigation

Any factors that the accused’s lawyer thinks should be taken into account before the judge passes sentence after a finding of guilt.

Police Bail

See Undertaking Often called police bail.
After the police arrest someone they may release them from the police station if the person signs a document undertaking (promising) to come to court on the date the police have given them.
They must agree to other conditions such as not committing any other crimes.

Precognition Interview

An interview of a witness by the procurator fiscal or defence lawyer(s)
to help them prepare before the court case.
It is part of the investigation process and does not necessarily mean that a prosecution will follow.
It may be possible to have someone with you during the interview
(ask the person who invites you for interview before the date of the meeting).
The person cannot be another witness in the case, and they cannot answer for you.
The interview can be arranged at a time and place of your choosing.

Proceedings / Court Proceedings

General term for the court process.

Procurator Fiscal (PF)

Often just called the Fiscal. The Procurator Fiscal is the public prosecutor in Scotland.
The PF is in charge of deciding whether someone should be prosecuted and what court the case should be heard in.
The prosecution has the 'burden of proof' which means that they need to present enough evidence to prove 'beyond reasonable doubt' that an accused person is guilty.
The PF prosecutes the crime on behalf of the Crown, and makes decisions in the public interest (see below). (see Crown Office)

Productions

Things which are shown in court as evidence such as letters or clothes.
Prosecution - Taking legal action against someone and bringing a case to court – see Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS)

Public Interest

The Procurator Fiscal makes decisions based on what is best for the public in general, not just the victim of the crime. The PF will look at all the circumstances including the severity of the offence.
The PF will also take into account the interests of the victim, the effect of prosecution on the accused and the local community and general public opinion. More information is available here.

R
Release on Undertaking

After the police arrest someone for a fairly serious crime, they may release them from the police station if the person signs a document undertaking, (or promising) to come to court on the date the police give them. They must promise to behave, and not to commit any other crimes. Often called police bail.

Remand or remanded in custody
When a person is kept a police cell or prison before a court appearance.
S
Sentence
The Judge's decision when the accused is found guilty of breaking the law – this might be a punishment given to the accused.
Sentence discount

When the Judge reduces the length of sentence because the accused has pleaded guilty.
Any discount should be stated in court.

Sheriff

The name for a Judge in the Sheriff Court.
The Sheriff is in charge of all court proceedings and is an expert in the law.
He or she will ensure everything is done fairly within the law and that the court rules and legal proceedings are followed.
They also have a duty to protect the interests of all the people involved in the case including the witnesses.

Social Enquiry Reports

When a sheriff or judge wants to know more about an accused person, they will ask for a social enquiry report. If a person is going to jail for the first time, the court must have a social enquiry report.

Social worker

A person who works with children and adults when they may need extra help.

Solemn case / procedure

When a trial takes place in front of a Judge and jury.
These cases can take place in the High Court or the Sheriff Court.

Special measures

Different ways to help a child witness or adult vulnerable witness give evidence – e.g. a TV link or a screen. Click here for more information.

Statement

A note or recording made by the police of what the witness has said.

Summary case / procedure

These are criminal cases where there is no jury.
It is the sheriff or magistrate who makes the decision.
These cases can take place in the sheriff or the district court.

Summons

(See Copy Complaint Formal letter from the Procurator Fiscal to an accused person, telling them what they have been charged with and when to appear in court.)

Supervision

The prisoner will be released on a licence with specific conditions attached.
The prisoner’s compliance with these conditions will be supervised by the local authority criminal justice services.

T
Trial
The legal process at court when witnesses come to give evidence.
V
Undertaking

Often called police bail. After the police arrest someone they may release them from the police station if the person signs a document undertaking (promising) to come to court on the date the police have given them. They must agree to other conditions such as not committing any other crimes.

Verdict

The decision reached at the end of a trial (guilty, not guilty or not proven).

VIA

Short for the Victim Information and Advice service – Part of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service. VIA staff provide victims, witnesses and bereaved relatives in certain crimes with information about the court case and can put them in touch with support organisations.

Victim Statement

A written statement which allows victims or, in some cases, their relatives to tell the court how the crime affected them. See the Victim Statement Scheme page.

W
Victim Support Scotland (VSS)

Provides practical and emotional support for victims of crime and their families, regardless of whether they report the crime and/or there is a court case. (VSS)

Warrant
A warrant is a document from the court, allowing the police to take certain actions.
An arrest warrant allows the police to arrest someone, and take them to court.
Witness

 A person who has information about something and may have to tell the court about it. (see Evidence)

Witness Service

People at the court who provide practical and emotional support to victims, witnesses and their families at court. Every Sheriff Court and High Court in Scotland has a Witness Service.