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Criminal Law Jargon Buster

Below is a breakdown of common words and phrases used when discussing Criminal Law matters.

Absolute Discharge

This means that although the defendant has been found guilty of the offence, the court takes the view that no punishment is necessary as either the offence is very minor, or that the experience has been enough of a deterrent for future criminal activities.

Acquitted

The defendant has been found not guilty.

Caution

A caution is when the defendant has to attend a police station to be spoken to formally by a senior police officer. They will be warned about their behaviour and the consequences if a further offence is committed. The caution is then recorded in writing.

CJS

Criminal Justice System.

Case Progression Officers (CPO)

The courts, police and Crown Prosecution Service all employ CPOs who are responsible for ensuring that trial cases are ready to proceed. They are also responsible for liaising with victims if charges are changed or dropped.

Community Order

These are sentences given by the court and given by probation service in the community. There are 12 different requirements used to punish the offender, protect the public and reduce the change of re-offending. Community Orders are strictly enforced and if they are not complied with, the defendant can be returned to Court.

Compensation

If a defendant is caught and convicted, the criminal court may order the defendant to pay compensation to the victim.

Conviction

A conviction is each finding of guilt for every offence considered by a criminal court for each convicted person. A finding of guilt would include a plea of guilt.

Conditional Discharge

This is a sentence that is given to a defendant which means that if they commit another offence within a certain period of time they can be returned to court and re-sentenced for the original offence.

CPS

Crown Prosecution Service.

Imprisonment

This is used for the most serious offences. Each sentence has a maximum term which is decided by Parliament there are also minimum sentences set for repeat offenders.

Indictable only offence

All criminal cases begin in the Magistrates Court but indictable only offences are sent by the Magistrates Court to the Crown Court. Indictable only offences are dealt with by a Judge and jury and are usually more serious offences such as murder, rape or manslaughter.

Parole

This is the system that allows a prisoner to be released before they have served their full sentence. It is granted on evidence supplied by the prison and probation staff.

There are many factors to rely on when deciding whether to grant parole including nature of the offence, home circumstances, plans for release and behaviour whilst in prison.

Summary Offences

These can only be dealt with in the Magistrates Court as the defendant is not entitled to trial by jury. These offences have a maximum penalty of 6 months imprisonment or a fine of up to £5,000.00.

Suspended Sentence

Some custodial sentences are suspended for a set period. It can be suspended for a period ranging from 6 months to 2 years. In this time, the defendant remains in the community and will be instructed to complete other requirements fairly similar to a Community Order.

Victim Support

This is a national charity that gives free and confidential advice to victims of crime, witnesses, friends and family.

Warnings/Reprimands

These only apply to defendants under the age of 18. It means that the defendant will have to attend a police station to be spoken to by a police officer.

Young Offender

This is if the defendant is 17 or under and has committed an offence.

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