Glossary

A – E F – M N – Z
  • Aggravating factors – things that make an offence more serious and are likely to increase the sentence.
  • Allocation – the stage at which magistrates will decide whether to try a case that can be heard either by them or in the Crown Court.
  • Appeal – In criminal justice, a person convicted of an offence can apply to a higher court to have their conviction overturned or their sentence reduced.  Appeals against conviction or sentence in magistrates’ courts are heard in the Crown Court. Appeals against conviction or sentence in the Crown Court are heard in the Court of Appeal Criminal Division.
  • Case law – law created by judges’ decisions in individual cases in the Court of Appeal or Supreme Court
  • Community sentence– this is a punishment that may include programmes designed to help people to stop offending. An example might be unpaid work and help with addiction problems.
  • Compensation – an amount of money ordered by the court to be paid by someone who has committed a criminal offence that has caused personal injury, loss or damage to the victim.
  • Consultation – a process of getting input and feedback from legal professionals, experts, interested parties and members of the public on a proposed piece of work (usually a new sentencing guideline), normally running for 12 weeks.
  • Court of Appeal – where decisions are made about cases where someone doesn’t agree with the verdict or the sentence given in the Crown Court. 
  • Criminal Courts Chargecharge fixed by law that an offender has to pay the court upon conviction. This is separate from any fine or the victim surcharge. This content will be updated in due course in line with the announcement made on 3 December 2015 by the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Michael Gove.
  • Crown Court – deals with the more serious criminal offences including murder and rape and cases sent up from the magistrates’ courts. Trials in the Crown Court are in front of a judge and jury. It also hears appeals from magistrates’ courts.
  • Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) – the body responsible for public prosecutions of people charged with criminal offences in England and Wales.
  • Culpability – the word used to describe the level of responsibility or blame for committing a crime. For example a person who plans a crime will normally be considered to be more culpable than someone who commits it on the spur of the moment.
  • Determinate prison sentence– the court will set the length of the sentence imposed, for example four years’ imprisonment. An offender sentenced to a determinate sentence will normally be automatically released after serving half their sentence.
  • Discharge – for the least serious offences like very minor thefts, a court may give
    • – an absolute discharge which means it decides not to impose a punishment because the experience of going to court has been punishment enough, but the offender still gets a criminal record; or
    • – a conditional discharge which means that if the offender commits another crime within a set period, they can be sentenced for both offences.
  • District judges (Magistrates’ Court) – District judges hear the more complex or longer criminal, youth and some civil cases in the magistrates’ courts, but normally do this on their own rather than as magistrates do as a bench of three.
  • Either way – a case that can either be tried either by magistrates or on by a judge and jury in the Crown Court. An example of an either way offence is theft.