Legal Dictionary

This legal dictionary provides you with explanations for legal terms. You can click on the relevant letter below to find your specific term quickly.

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


A



Accused

The person charged with committing an offence.


Acknowledgement of services

When a defendant receives a claim, they must acknowledge within 14 days that they have received it.


Acquittal

When a defendant is declared not guilty and so cleared of their charges.


Act

When parliament passes a bill, it becomes an act, which is a law.


Adjournment

Postponing the date of a hearing.


Adjudication

When an ‘alternative dispute resolution’ ends up resulting in a disagreement, an adjudicator will make a decision on the matter to try and solve the problem.


Administration order

An order to pay a certain monthly fee to the Court when in debt, with the payments distributed out by the Court.


Admission

Admitting that part/all of the opposition’s case is true, but it can involve disputing this ‘truth’ as well.


Adoption

When a child is adopted, the adopters become legally responsible for the child, and its birth-parents’ rights are ended.


Adultery

Sexual intercourse between someone who is married, and someone who is not their spouse, during the marriage.


Advocate

A legal expert (a solicitor or a barrister) representing someone in Court.


Affirmation

Taking an oath may have no moral effect on a witness with a particular religious belief, so they instead affirm that their evidence is true.


Alternative dispute resolution (ADR)

Arbitration and mediation are two alternative ways to try and resolve an issue without legal action occurring. Refusing to try ADR could lead to penalties.


Amendment

This is when a document is altered (corrected).


Amount offered in satisfaction

When a defendant makes a financial offer to settle a claim, such as in personal injury cases.


Annul

When something is no longer legally valid.


Appeal

When someone challenges a decision, their appeal can be reviewed by a higher Court if they have permission.


Application

Applying to a Court to act on something (start proceedings). The person making this request is an applicant.


Appraisal

Valuing assets before they are sold.


Arbitration

When a claim is made, the two parties need to decide whether to choose arbitration rather than the Court to settle the case. An arbitrator is an impartial person who makes a final decision on the case. Normally, claims that have been arbitrated are not allowed to go to Court.


Assured tenancy

An agreement between a landlord and their tenant which grants the tenant permission to tenure.


Attachment of earnings order

When you fail to pay council tax, your employer is required to subtract a certain amount of your wage at specific times, which will be paid to whoever the money is owed to.



B



Bail

A defendant is released from custody up until the date they are due to appear in Court. There are usually certain requirements for bail to be permitted.


Bailiff

Bailiffs have permission to evict people from their homes, arrest people, or even confiscate assets and sell them to pay off debts.


Bankrupt

When the law declares someone to be unable to pay off their debts.


Barristers

The name for lawyers who can represent their clients in any Court. A group of barristers is a bar.


Bench warrants

When a defendant is absent from Court, a warrant can be issued for them to be arrested and brought to Court.


Bill of indictment

A statement signed by the Court detailing the charges that a defendant faces.


Binding decisions

When something is binding then it must be obeyed. For example, if a defendant receives a ‘bind over for sentence’ requiring them to attend Court, failure to do so could result in a penalty.


Brief

A detailed, written, explanation of a case for a legal representative, so they can then represent the party at a hearing.



C



Case

The generalised term for a lawsuit, claim or action in a Court, or it can refer to the arguments made in Court.


Case management tracks

There are three tracks, with a case being allocated to one of; the small claims track, the fast track or the multi-track. The track which a case is assigned to depends on the details of the case. The small claims track is for cases worth up to 5,000 GBP. The fast track is for cases worth between 5,000 GBP and 15,000 GBP. The multi-track is for cases worth over 15,000 GBP.


Caution

Police Officers can give a warning to someone rather than charge them, or to someone who has already been charged with an offence. It can also refer to the Land Registry when someone wants to make sure that nothing happens to a certain piece of land without them knowing about it.


Caveat

A notice which prevents specific actions from occurring without the knowledge of the person who produced the caveat.


Charge

Officially accusing someone of committing a criminal offence.


Charging Order

If money is owed, a court can order that the debtor is not permitted to sell their property without paying off their debts.


Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB)

This is a charity providing free legal help and advice on topics (such as finances) to the public.


Civil

When a problem is about private affairs rather than an offence against the state.


Civil cases

Civil disputes which include Court action.


Claimant

(Formerly known as a Plaintiff). The person who has made a claim against someone else.


Claim form

When a claimant has filed a claim form in Court then proceedings will begin. The Court will issue the form with an explanation and advice about the claim.


Codicil

If a will requires an update, a codicil is written and added to the will. For major changes a will is completely redone.


Coercion

If someone is unable to act freely, due to being threatened for example, then they are being coerced.


Committal

When someone is officially sent to prison or to a higher Court for trial due to the severity of their case.


Common law

An area of the law which is not official, but due to previous actions taken by judges in resolving similar issues, certain decisions are made using the past as an example to follow.


Concurrent sentence

When the Court decides that multiple imprisonment sentences should be served at the same time.


Conditional discharge

Provided that they do not re-offend during a specific time period, a convicted defendant can be discharged without a sentence.


Consecutive sentence

The requirement for a prison sentence to begin as soon as the previous sentence expires, and it is not restricted to just two sentences.


Contempt of court

Failing to obey/respect the judicial process, such as not appearing as a witness without telling anyone beforehand that you would be absent.


Contributory negligence

An admittance by someone making a personal injury claim that they are partially responsible.


Corroboration

Evidence which can confirm existing evidence/statements.


Costs

Normally the Court decides that the winning party in civil proceedings will have their costs covered by the losing party, but the costs can be reduced if the winner has behaved poorly.


Counsel

Barristers or solicitors during legal action.


Counter-claim

When a defendant makes a retaliatory claim against the claimant.


County Court

Handles civil cases worth up to 50,000 GBP. It deals with contractual and debt disputes among others. They can make a county court judgement (CCJ) ordering a defendant to pay a certain amount to the claimant.


Court

A body of people who have judicial powers to enforce the law. Cases are heard in the courtroom.


Court fees

When claims are made a payment is usually required.


Court of appeal

Appeals can be made in a number of Courts depending on the severity of the case.


Court of protection

For people mentally incapable of looking after their own finances, the Court of Protection has the authority to handle their estates.


Covenant

An official agreement which makes performing a certain action an obligation.


Creditor

When someone is in debt, they owe the money to a creditor.


Criminal

Anyone found guilty of committing a criminal offence.


Cross-examination

When one party questions a witness from the other party.


Crown Court

This Court deals with serious crimes such as murder, rape and robbery, and also deals with appeals against decisions made by the Magistrates Court.



D



Damages

Financial compensation for a loss, injury or other harm suffered due to someone’s negligence.


Date of service

The date which a defendant receives a claim form from Court. They must acknowledge receiving the claim form within 14 days.


Debtor

When someone owes money, they are a debtor.


Declaration

A Court order stating a party’s rights in a statement.


Decree

An official order by a Court.


Decree Absolute

After an application has been made, this is the final document which dissolves a marriage.


Decree Nisi

A Court order stating exactly when a divorce will end, unless a valid reason saying otherwise is presented before then.


Deed

An official document detailing the terms of an agreement which both parties sign.


Default judgement

A binding decision in favour of a party if the opposing party failed to take a certain action. Often occurs when the defendant fails to respond to their summons or to appear in Court.


Defendant

A person disputing a claim or facing trial.


Defending a claim

The defendant challenges the claim made against them.


Deposition

Written confirmation that the evidence given by a witness is true, when they are unable to testify in Court.


Determination

An assessment of costs involved in a case, to ensure the sum of money involved is reasonable.


Disability

An inability to manage personal affairs due to health or age reasons, and requires representation in any legal proceedings.


Disclosure

It is a requirement for parties to show each other any documents they are going to use to support their case in Court.


Discontinuance

A claimant who decides to stop their claim will inform the Court, who will provide a notice of discontinuance.


Dismissal

The decision that a claim is stopped.


Dispute

A civil problem that does not get resolved in Court.


Divorce

The nullification of a divorce.


Dock

The area of a criminal Court for the defendant.



E



Either-way offence

An offence which could be heard either in a Magistrates Court or a Crown Court.


Enforcement

When a judgement has been made and action is taken to fulfil the demands of the judgement.


Entry of judgement

The Court deciding which party has won the case.


Estate

The term for property/possessions owned by someone.


Evidence

Facts/information used to help someone’s claim in Court.


Executor

The person or people who are chosen to carry out the demands of a will.


Exempt

Being free from legal responsibility for something.



F



Filing

Presenting forms/documents to the Court, such as a claim.


Fixed costs

When the costs in a civil case are set at a specific amount and could be claimed in certain conditions, such as if a defendant fails to respond to a claim.



G



Garnishee

An order for a third party who owes a defendant; they must surrender the money/assets stated.


Group litigation orders (GLOs)

A GLO can be made when there are numerous parties involved, allowing cases covering similar issues to be managed jointly.


Guarantor

A guarantor makes payments if the person who should be making the repayments fails to do so.


Guardian

Looks after the interests of a child or mentally disabled person.



H



Hearing

Often held in public, this is the trial in a case.


High Court

A civil Court of justice with unlimited jurisdiction, made up of three divisions.


Housing claim

When a landlord wants to recover land, money or property, they might pursue a housing claim.



I



Impartial

The absence of favouritism to either side during a dispute.


Independent

The absence of any connection between a person/company and any of the parties involved in a dispute.


Indictable Offence

This is a criminal offence which only the Crown Court can try, and there are four different classifications, from one to four.


Injunction

An order preventing someone from a certain act, or demanding them to commit a certain act.


Instalments

A payment being split up into several parts and paid at certain intervals, easing the burden.


Interest

Money charged at a specific time, at a certain rate, for the borrowing of money.


Interim order

A provisional order made during proceedings, it is not final.


Interpleader

A third party claiming ownership of the assets being disputed by a creditor, with the Court then summoning the parties to decide who is the rightful owner.


Intestate

Dying without having made a will.


Issue

Beginning legal action, trying to fulfil a claim.



J



Judge

Has the authority to hold trials and govern the law.


Judgement

The decision made in Court during legal action.


Judgement set aside

In certain conditions, such as being too unwell to appear in Court, a judgement can be set aside by the party.


Judicial discretion (civil cases)

A judge can make a decision based on what they believe is best based on the available evidence.


Judicial review

Decisions taken in lower areas of the law can be reviewed by the High Court to ensure legality.


Jurisdiction

The official authority to make legal decisions.


Jury

Made up of jurors, they swear to provide a verdict based on the evidence provided in a legal case.


Juvenile

Someone who is less than 17 years old.



L



Landlord

The owner of land/property, which is rented out to tenants.


Landlord and tenant act

When a tenant rents property from a landlord, this act helps to legally protect them.


Law

A system of rules created, stating which actions are prohibited and the penalties imposed for anyone who breaks the law.


Lawyer

Barristers and solicitors practise law. Solicitors are usually restricted to the lower Courts, barristers appear in the higher Courts.


Lay representative

Someone accompanying another during a hearing. They are not legally qualified, and are usually a friend or relative.


Lease

Letting out land or property for a determined period of time.


Leave

Meaning permission, you can be awarded ‘leave to appeal’ by a Court, which means you have permission to appeal.


Legal advice

Advice provided by legal experts about the law.


Legal aid

For those on low income, the state can provide legal aid which covers the legal fees.


Legal personal representative

Someone who has been issued with letters of administration or granted probate.


Legatee

The person receiving an estate stated in a will.


Letters of administration

When someone dies without a will, letters of administration can be granted, permitting that person to manage the estate.


Libel

A false statement which is published and therefore damages someone’s reputation.


Licence

Official authority to carry out an act, which would be illegal without a licence.


Lien

Having the right to withhold another’s possessions if they owe money, until the money has been repaid.


Litigation

The process of legal action occurring. A ‘litigant in person’ takes on a case without legal representation. A ‘litigation friend’ takes on a case for a child or mentally disabled person.



M



Magistrates Court

The Court where criminal proceedings begin. Cases are evaluated and can be passed up to the Crown Court for trial. Civil cases can also be dealt with here.


Maladministration

Injustice caused by poor administration, such as the presence of bias and unnecessary delays.


Mediation

Attempting to resolve disagreements outside of Court with a mediator. This impartial third party tries to come up with a solution that both parties accept. If mediation fails, Court action can start/resume.


Mesne profits

Money a landlord is entitled to when someone has wrongful possession of the property. The sum depends on how long they overstay.


Minor

Someone aged below 18 years old. They must have representation in order to sue (or be sued) unless it is regarding wages. A ‘next friend’ is used to sue on their behalf, whilst a guardian defends them.


Mitigation

Attempting to reduce the severity of a punishment by (partly) excusing the offence.


Mortgage

A mortgagor can receive a loan of money from a mortgagee in order to buy a property.


Motion

A party’s application for an order (in their favour) from the High Court.



N



Non-molestation

An order preventing someone from physically attacking another person.


Non-suit

Failure by a claimant to convince the Court that their claim is valid, so it is withdrawn.


Notary public

A person with the authority to carry out certain legal actions, such as contracts and deeds.


Notice of issue

A notice from Court, informing a claimant of the date of service and the details of the case.


Notice to quit

A prior notice which terminates a tenancy.


Nullity

The Court deeming a legal act to be void, such as a marriage being annulled in divorce proceedings.



O



Oath

A sincere promise (calling upon God) that your forthcoming statements at a hearing are true.


Objection

Challenging/disagreeing with an argument at a hearing.


Official receiver

A civil servant who acts as a liquidator when a company is wound up, or a trustee when someone is bankrupt. They assess how the debts can be paid off and how the money will be distributed.


Ombudsman

An independent official who evaluates complaints against an organisation, usually if the company’s specific complaints procedure failed to resolve the problem beforehand. An ombudsman makes a non-binding recommendation.


Oral evidence

Verbal evidence provided to a Court, rather than written evidence.


Oral examination

Questioning someone under oath to find out about their finances.


Order

An authoritative command by a Court.


Originating application

The first application in a lawsuit, beginning legal proceedings.


Ouster

An order ejecting someone from a property.



P



Part 8 claim

Another option for making a claim to the Court.


Particulars of claim

A clear and concise statement of the details of a claim, read at the start of Court action, explaining the grounds for the claim and the compensation requested.


Party

The people in Court on either the defending side or claimant side.


Patient

Someone who is incapable of managing their own affairs due to mental incapacity, and is under the Court of Protection’s jurisdiction.


Penal notice

A penal notice is attached to a Court order and explains that breaching the order could result in a fine or imprisonment.


Personal application

When an applicant submits an application without legal representation.


Personal injury claim

A claim made in response to suffering physical/mental harm, because of negligence by the defendant.


Personal service

The delivery in person of a claim, summons, notice or other legal document.


Petition

When a petitioner begins proceedings with a prayer stating what they want to happen, such as for their marriage to be dissolved.


Plea

The reply of a defendant when charged by Court, stating if they are guilty or innocent.


Pleading

Documents which explain the reasons for a party making a claim/defence in Court proceedings.


Possession proceedings

A landlord taking legal proceedings in order to recover their land/property.


Power of arrest

A power of arrest order can be attached to some injunctions, granting police the authority to arrest someone who fails to comply with the terms of their injunction.


Practice directions/Pre-action protocols

A guide for parties to follow in the lead-up to legal action, in an attempt to resolve problems and improve co-operation, improving the chances of a quick settlement.


Precedent

The decisions taken in a certain case establishes a model of how to deal with that case. Similar cases in the future will then follow this model.


Preliminary hearing

Before the final hearing, the judge will hold this to ensure that everyone understands the current situation, and offers guidance.


Pre-trial checklist

A reminder to everyone involved about the details of the issues which will be considered during the ensuing trial. It will be checked before the final hearing.


Pre-trial review

Before a specific time has been allocated to a trial/final hearing, a judge will evaluate the issues of a case during a meeting.


Probate

Official recognition of the validity of a will.


Process

The document which begins legal actions.


Prosecution

A prosecutor establishing/carrying out criminal proceedings against someone.


Putative father

The apparent father of an illegitimate child.



Q



Quantum

The Court will decide on a quantum, the sum of money which is compensation for damages.


Quasi-judicial functions

An executive body which can make judgements, similar to Courts, evaluating the claim and deciding on a reasonable outcome.



R



Re-allocation

If the financial value of a case increases, then the claim can be re-allocated to another claim track.


Receiver

The Court of Protection can assign someone to act on behalf of a patient.


Recognisance

Someone agreeing to comply with specific terms, such as keeping the peace in Court, and they usually pledge money too in order to guarantee they keep to the terms.


Redetermination

Asking for the decision made in a determination to be reconsidered due to the belief that it is unfair.


Register of judgements, orders and fines

If a Court makes a judgement on someone, such as imposing a fine, it will remain on public records for six years.


Released

Once they have provided their evidence to the Court, a witness is ‘released’ from obligations.


Remand

Placing a defendant in custody, or on bail, whilst they await trial.


Respondent

The person a petition is filed against, or appealing against a petition.


Response pack

The pack sent out to the defendant, containing all relevant details and forms which are required to reply to the claim.


Restitution

Returning to a property illegally, after being evicted by a bailiff, requires a warrant of restitution being issued to Court to recover possession of the property.


Right of audience

A lawyer’s right to represent their client in Court.



S



Sanction

If someone in a case fails to comply with certain demands, or fails to try and settle out of Court, they may receive a penalty even if they win the case.


Satisfaction

Paying off a debt or meeting other compensation requirements.


Security of tenure

The time period an item is held for.


Service

Sending Court documents to the recipient, either in person or by post.


Settlement

When the claimant and defendant in a civil case voluntarily agree on a matter, ending their case.


Skeleton argument

A written document which lists the main issues which will be addressed.


Slander

Damaging another’s reputation by making a false spoken statement.


Solicitor

A lawyer, their main duty is informing their clients as much as possible about their (prospective) case, and also representing them if they go to Court.


Specified amounts of money

A precise and straightforward amount of money, usually money which is owed to the claimant.


Specified claim

A claim which demands the payment of a certain amount of money.


Squatter

When someone is squatting, they are occupying land/property without the consent of its owner.


Statement

Written evidence made by a witness, or details about a specific issue.


Statement of case

Any forms filed, such as a claim, reply and defence form, are all included in this, along with a brief description of the claim.


Statement of truth

Each statement of case requires verification. Therefore, whoever has entered details onto a form is signing to say that everything they have written is true.


Stay

When the Court decides to suspend proceedings indefinitely, usually waiting for a certain order to be followed before resuming legal processes.


Stay of execution

The delaying of a Court order, so a final judgement cannot be enforced yet.


Striking a case out

If a party fails to comply with the Court, the Court can strike out a case which stops the proceedings. A case can also be struck out if the claim or defence is not reasonable. Both sides are allowed to request that the Court strikes a case out.


Subpoena

A summons which requires its receiver to appear in Court.


Suit

Legal proceedings, which begin because of a petition. A suitor brings the suit before Court.


Summary assessment

An assessment of the costs of an order, usually straight after the order had been made.


Summary judgement

A judgement which can occur without a hearing, if the claimant or defendant makes a compelling claim that the opposing party has no valid grounds (or if the claimant faces no defence), so the Court makes a summary judgement.


Summary offence

Criminal offences that can only be tried by a Magistrates Court.


Summary procedure

When a Court orders a sum of money to be paid, rather than fixed costs.


Summing-up

A judge’s final review of the evidence in a case, just before the jury exits to reach a verdict.


Summons

Being ordered to appear in Court, either as a defendant, witness or as a member of the jury.


Surety

A person taking responsibility to ensure someone else complies with an order, such as appearing in Court or paying off a debt.


Suspended sentence

When a judge decides a guilty defendant will be placed on probation, and their sentence will only occur if they offend again during their period of probation.



T



Taking control of goods

When a bailiff legally carries out the requirements of a warrant, taking goods which equate to the sum of money owed, with the view that the goods will be sold at a public auction.


Telephone hearing

Some hearings can occur using a telephone, lasting under an hour. Allocation hearings, case management hearings, listing hearings and interim applications are usually allowed to occur using a telephone.


Tenant

The person who is leasing (renting) land/property from its owner.


Testator

A person who creates a will.


Third party

A party not directly involved in a case, but is relevant due to owing money to the defendant.


Third party debt order

A claimant can issue an order against a third party, who owes the defendant money (with the defendant being in debt to the claimant), to pay the money.


Trial

A public hearing of a case, where a judge examines the evidence to establish who has acted wrongly.


Trial bundles

A collection of the documents which will be brought up in Court. Everyone receives an identical bundle of documents. ‘Trial contents’ are the documents in a trial bundle.


Trial window

A case needs to be listed for trial in a specific period of time.


Tribunal

This is a body which has been established to deal with specific disputes, without being involved with Courts, helping to speed up and cheapen the process of resolving problems.


Trust

When someone entrusts their property to another person (named a trustee), with specific instructions on how to deal with the property.



U



Undertaking

The making of a promise/pledge during legal proceedings.


Unspecified amount of money

This is when the amount of money being asked for is not precise, such as in the event that someone wants compensation for an injury sustained, but they are unable to calculate its value.


Unspecified claim

For this claim, the Court decides on the amount to be rewarded.



V



Varied order

When a defendant has been asked to pay an amount of money in full, or in certain instalments, but they cannot afford it, they can ask for cheaper instalments.


Verdict

The jury’s decision on whether a defendant is guilty or not guilty.


Vexatious litigant

Someone who often takes cases to Court, with little chance of success. The Court can order that they be prevented from beginning legal proceedings again in the future unless they receive prior permission.


Voluntary

The decision to do something by free choice, with no pressure to make that decision.



W



Ward of Court

The title for a minor who has a guardian appointed by the Court, and decisions regarding their welfare must therefore be approved by the Court.


Warrant of committal

The permission for a Court to imprison someone who fails to comply with the terms of an order.


Warrant of control

The permission for a Court to take goods from a defendant’s home/business and sell them at a public auction.


Warrant of delivery

The permission for a Court to recover goods from a debtor, returning them instead to the creditor.


Warrant of possession

The permission for a Court to possess a defendant’s property, and evict the defendant from it.


Warrant of restitution

The permission for a Court to evict any occupants of a property, after they illegally returned to the property after a warrant of possession had been served. The property will then be returned to the claimant.


Will

A document someone creates to explain what they want to happen to their estate once they die.


Winding up

The selling of a company’s assets to pay creditors, and closing the business.


Witness

Someone who provides evidence to a Court after they witnessed an event happen.


Witness summons

A summon for a witness to appear in Court and provide evidence.


Written statement

A document of facts relevant to a case, provided to the Court.