Legal Terms


Accused: The person charged. The person who has allegedly committed the offence.

Acknowledgement of service: When the particulars of a claim form (outlining details of the claim) are served on (delivered to) a defendant, they receive a response pack including a form which they must use to acknowledge they have received the claim. The defendant must file (return) the acknowledgment form within 14 days of receiving the particulars of the claim. The particulars can be served with, or separately from the claim form.

Acquisitions, Mergers & Disposals: The law and practice relating to the transfer of ownership of business enterprises, and the associated financial transactions.

Acquittal: Discharge of defendant following verdict or direction of not guilty.

Act: Law, as an act of parliament.

Adjournment: The postponing of the hearing of a case until a later date.

Adjudication: A judgment or decision of a court, tribunal or adjudicator in alternative dispute resolution (ADR) cases where disputes are resolved outside of the court.

Administrative Court: fareast-language: EN-GB; The Administrative Court is part of the High Court. It deals with applications for judicial review.

Administration Order: Order by a County Court directing a debtor to pay a specified monthly installment into Court in respect of outstanding debts. The Court retains the payments made and at intervals distributes it between the creditors on a pro-rata basis.

Admiralty Court: Part of the High Court. An admiralty claim is a claim for the arrest of a ship at sea to satisfy a debt.

Admission: A party involved in a claim may admit the truth of all or part of the other party’s case, at any stage during proceedings. For example, a defendant may agree that he or she owes some money, but less than the amount being claimed. If the defendant makes an admission, the claimant may apply for judgment, on the admission.

Adoption: An act by which the rights and duties of the natural parents of a child are extinguished and equivalent rights and duties become vested in the adopter or adopters, to whom the child then stands in all respects as if born to them in marriage.

Adultery: Voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and another person who is not the spouse, while the marriage is still valid. This is a common fact relied on for divorce.

Advocate: A barrister or solicitor representing a party in a hearing before a Court.

Adversarial: Arrangements designed to bring out the truth of a matter, through adversarial (conflict based) techniques such as cross-examination.

Affirmation: Declaration by a witness who has no religious belief, or has religious beliefs that prevent him/her taking the oath. They declare by affirmation that the evidence he/she is giving is the truth.

Allocation: The process by which a judge assigns a defended civil case, to one of three case management tracks, the small claims track, the fast track or the multi-track.

Alternative Dispute resolution: These are schemes such as arbitration and mediation which are designed to allow parties to find a resolution to their problem, without legal action. A party’s refusal to consider ADR could lead to sanctions (penalties) against that party, by a judge, even if the party wins the case.

Amendment: The process by which corrections to court documents, such as statements of case, can be made. A statement of case can be amended at any time, before it is served or with permission of all other parties or the court, (once served). The court may reject the amendment, even if the party concerned has permission of other parties to the case.

Ancillary Relief: Additional claims (e.g. in respect of maintenance) attached to the petition for divorce/judicial separation/nullity.

Annul: To declare no longer valid.

Appeal: Application to a higher court or other body for review of a decision taken by a lower court or tribunal. The higher court may overturn or uphold (i.e. reject) the lower court’s decision. Often, permission (leave) is required, to for an appeal to occur.

Applicant: Person making the request or demand, e.g. person who issues an application.

Application: The act of applying to a civil court to ask it to do something, for example to start proceedings.

Arbitration/Mediation/ADR: Methods of settling disputes without going to court. In arbitration, an arbitrator or panel of arbitrators hears evidence from both sides in proceedings which may be as formal as a court case, but may be quite informal and sometimes cheaper than court proceedings. Mediation involves the parties reaching agreement through negotiation through a mediator. The court system increasingly offers these alternatives to litigation, especially in family matters and small claims.


Bail: Release of a defendant from custody, until his/her next appearance in Court, subject sometimes to security being given and/or compliance with certain conditions.

Bailiff: Bailiff can also serve (deliver) court documents on people.

Bankrupt: Insolvent – unable to pay creditors and having all goods/effects administered by a liquidator or trustee and sold for the benefit of those creditors; as a result of an order under the Insolvency Act 1986.

Bar: The collective term for barristers.

Barrister: A member of the bar: a lawyer entitled to represent clients in all the courts.

Bound / Binding: A binding decision is one that must be obeyed by the people concerned. For example, it is not possible to go to court after a binding decision has been issued by an arbitrator.

Brief: Written instructions to counsel to appear at a hearing on behalf of a party prepared by the solicitor and setting out the facts of the case and any case law relied upon.


Case: An action, suit or claim in a court of law. It can also mean the arguments put forward by parties in a court of law.

Case Number: A unique reference number allocated to each case by the issuing Court.

Case Value: The financial value of a case – known as case value – is one of the factors used to asses which track a case (claim) should be allocated to. See also case management tracks.


  1. Notice given to the Land Registry by any person with an interest in particular land to ensure that no action is taken in respect of the land without the person’s knowledge.
  2. Warning, given by a Police Officer, to a person charged with an offence.

iii. Warning, given by a Police Officer, instead of a charge.

Certificate of Legal Aid Costs: A certificate of costs allowed following taxation by a judicial or taxing officer (Previously referred to as an Allocatur).


  1. Private room, or Court from which the public are excluded in which a District Judge or Judge may conduct certain sorts of hearings.
  2. Offices used by a barrister.

Chancery: The Chancery Division is part of the High Court It deals with cases involving land law, trusts and company law.

Charge: A formal accusation against a person that a criminal offence has been committed (see also Charging Order).

Charging Order: A court order directing that a charge be put on the judgment debtors’ property, such as a house or piece of land to secure payment of money due. This prevents the debtor from selling the property or land – without paying what is owed to the claimant.

Children Panel: Solicitors who are trained and assessed for suitability to act in proceedings involving children.

Citizens Advice Bureau: A charity which can offer free legal and financial advice to the general public.

Civil: Matters concerning private rights and not offences against the state.

Civil Justice or Civil Law: A branch of the law which applies to the rights and dealings of private citizens, (including such matters as unpaid debts, negligence and the enforcement of contracts). It does not include criminal, immigration, employment or family matters.

Civil Justice Reforms: The result of the Access to Justice report by Lord Woolf The aim is to provide more effective access to Justice through quicker, cheaper and more proportionate justice for defended cases It introduced a unified set of Rules and Practice Directions for the County and High Courts, and Judicial Case Management The reforms came into effect on 26 April 1999.

Civil Procedure: The rules and procedures to be followed for civil cases in the county courts and High Court.

Civil Procedure Rules: The rules and procedures for proceedings in civil courts England and Wales. An important feature is active case management by the courts.

Claim: Proceedings issued in the County or High Court. Previously know as an Action. See also Civil case or claim.

Claimant: The person issuing the claim. Previously known as the Plaintiff.

Claim Form: Proceedings in a civil court start with the issuing of a claim form. The form, which is issued by the court (after the claimant has filed the form in court), includes a summary of the nature of the claim and the remedy (compensation or amends) sought.

Coercion: Coercion exists when an individual is forced to behave in a particular way, by threats of violence, for example. The person concerned does not act freely.

Commissioner of Oaths: Solicitors authorised by the Lord Chancellor to administer oaths and affirmations to a statement of evidence.

Common Law: The law established, by precedent, from judicial decisions and established within a community.

Compensation: Usually a sum of money offered in recompense (to make amends) for an act, error or omission that harmed someone. The harm suffered may have been loss, personal injury or inconvenience.

Concurrent Sentence: A direction by a Court that a number of sentences of imprisonment should run at the same time.

Conditional Discharge: A discharge of a convicted defendant without sentence on condition that he/she does not re-offend within a specified period of time.

Consecutive Sentence: An order for a subsequent sentence of imprisonment to commence as soon as a previous sentence expires. Can apply to more than two sentences.

Contributory Negligence: Partial responsibility of a claimant for the injury in respect of which he/she claims damages.

Corroboration: Evidence by one person confirming that of another or supporting evidence, for example forensic evidence (bloodstain, fibres etc) in murder cases.

Costs (Civil): In civil proceedings the general rule is the person who wins the case is entitled to his or her costs. The court may decide to reduce the costs to be paid by the losing side if it feels that the winner has behaved unreasonably. The award of costs is at the court’s discretion.

Counterclaim: A claim made by a defendant against a claimant in an action. There is no limit imposed on a counterclaim, but a fee is payable according to the amount counterclaimed.

County Court: County courts deal with civil matters such as disputes over contracts, unpaid debts and negligence claims. County courts deal with all monetary claims up to £50,000. There are 218 county courts in England and Wales. The county court is a court of the first instance where civil cases start.

Court: Body with judicial powers.

Court Fees: The County Court will charge to issue a claim in a civil case and to launch enforcement proceedings if the defendant ignores the judgment of the court. You will also be charged if you make applications to the court.

Covenant: A formal agreement or a contract constituting an obligation to perform an act.

Creditor: A person to whom money is owed by a debtor.

Criminal: Person who has been found guilty of a criminal offence.

Cross Examination: The questioning of a witness for the other side in a case.


Damages: An amount of money claimed as compensation for physical/material loss, e.g. personal injury, breach of contract.

Date of service (civil claims): The date of service of the claim is the date upon which the defendant receives the claim form issued by the court on behalf of the claimant. If the Ôparticulars of claim’ section is completed or the particulars of claim are attached, the defendant must acknowledge receipt within 14 days.

Debt Recovery: The processes whereby money that has been loaned, with a prior contract or promise is in place, is recovered.

Debtor: A person who owes money to someone or to an organisation.

Decree: An order of the Court in proceedings commenced by petition.

Decree Absolute: A final certificate, resulting from an application, dissolving a marriage.

Decree Nisi: Order for divorce unless cause to contrary is shown within a set period.

Declaration: Court order setting out the rights of a party in the form of a statement.

Deed: A legal document which sets out the terms of an agreement, which is signed by both parties.

Defence or defending a claim (civil): When the defendant disputes the claim made by the claimant.

Disclosure: Parties to a civil case must disclose (show to the other party) documents they intend to rely on in court to support their case.

Discrimination: Unfair or unequal treatment of somebody because of his or her age, sex, race, religion or disability.

Dismissal: To make order or decision that a claim be ceased.

District Judge: A judicial officer of the Court whose duties involve hearing applications made within proceedings and final hearings subject to any limit of jurisdiction Previously known as Registrars.

Domestic Disputes: Legal problems that arise in the home, and the legislation that exists to resolve these problems. This can include the granting of an injunction against a violent partner or the resolution of divorce and custody issues.


Either-way Offence: An offence for which the accused may elect the case to be dealt with either summarily by the magistrates or by committal to the Crown Court to be tried by jury.

Enforcement: Method of pursuing a civil action after judgment has been made in favour of a party. Process carried out by Magistrates Court to collect fines and other monetary orders made in the Crown Court.

Enforcement / Enforcing A Judgment: When a judgment/order has not been paid or terms obeyed with, enforcement proceedings can be issued to ensure compliance. A court can order such action as the seizure of a defendant’s property for sale.

Entering Judgement On Admission: The claimant can ask the court to enter judgment on admission when the defendant has admitted all or part of the case and offered payment or other restitution.

Evidence: Documentary or other material which is used to support a person’s case in a court of law.

Execution: Seizure of debtors goods following non payment of a Court order.

Executor: A person or persons specified to carry out the provisions of a will.

Exempt: To be freed from liability or allegiance.

Exhibit: Item or document referred to in an affidavit or used as evidence during a Court trial or hearing.


Filing: The process of delivering or presenting forms and other documents to a court. For example a claim or a defence to a claim must be filed.

Fixed Costs: Costs in civil cases that are set at a certain level and can be claimed in specific circumstances. For example, if a defendant does not acknowledge a claim, the claimant can obtain judgment and an order for fixed costs to offset the cost of beginning the claim.


Garnishee: A summons issued by a plaintiff, against a third party, for seizure of money or other assets in their keeping, but belonging to the defendant.

Group Litigation Orders: A Group Litigation Order can be made in a claim in which there are multiple parties or claimants. The order will provide for the case management of claims which give rise to common or related issues of fact or law.

Guarantor: Someone who promises to make payment for another if payment is not made by the person responsible for making the repayments of a loan or hire purchase agreement.


Hearing: A hearing is the trial of the case. Hearings are usually held in public

High Court: A civil Court which consists of three divisions:

  1. Queen’s Bench (can be known as King’s Bench Division if a King is assuming the throne) – civil disputes for recovery of money, including breach of contract, personal injuries, libel/slander.
  2. Family – concerned with matrimonial maters and proceedings relating to children, e.g. wardship.

iii. Chancery – property matters including fraud and bankruptcy.

Home court (civil) The court nearest to the defendant’s home or place of business.

Housing Claim The procedure that a landlord may use in a county court to recover land or property (and money for arrears of rent or damage to property, if applicable). See also Possession Claim Online (PCOL).


Impartial: Not having or showing any favouritism to one side in a dispute.

Independent: Person or organisation not connected to any of the parties in a dispute or legal case.

Indictable Offence: A criminal offence triable only by the Crown Court. The different types of offence are classified 1, 2, 3 or 4. Murder is a class 1 offence.

Infant: Also known as a minor: A person under 18 years of age which prevents them from acting on their own behalf in legal proceedings.

Injunction: A court order which either restrains a person from a course of action or behaviour, or which requires a person to follow another course of action.

Interlocutory: Interim, pending a full order/decision, e.g. interlocutory judgment for damages pending further hearing to assess amount to be awarded and entered as final judgment.

Interpleader: A claim by a third party to ownership of goods levied upon under a warrant of execution which is disputed by a creditor. The Court then issues an interpleader summons for the parties to attend Court to adjudicate on rightful ownership.

Intestate: Without leaving a will.

Interim Order: An order made during proceedings which is not a final order.


Judge: An officer appointed to administer the law and who has authority to hear and try cases in a court of law.

Judgement set aside: A judgment or order can be set aside (made void) at the request of a party to the case in certain circumstances, for example if they were too ill to attend court on the day of the judgment.

Judicial/Judiciary: Relating to the Administration of justice or to the judgment of a Court ii) A judge or other officer empowered to act as a judge.

Judicial discretion (civil): Judges have the power to decide how best to manage the case on the individual facts. They do not necessarily have to look at how similar cases are managed. The judge has very wide case management powers under Rule 3 of the civil procedure rules to decide on the evidence parties produce how best to manage their case.

Judicial review: The High Court can review decisions of inferior (lower) courts, public bodies and other bodies to ensure that the decision making process has been lawful.

Jurat: A statement contained at the conclusion of an affidavit which states the name of the person giving the evidence, the name of the person before whom and the place where the oath or affirmation was taken.

Jurisdiction: The area and matters over which a court has legal authority.

Juror: A person who has been summoned by a Court to be a member of the jury.

Jury: Body of jurors sworn to reach a verdict according to the evidence in a Court.

Justice of the Peace: A lay magistrate – person appointed to administer judicial business in a Magistrates Court. Also sits in the Crown Court with a judge or recorder to hear appeals and committals for sentence.

Juvenile: Person under 17 years of age.


Landlord: A person or organisation which owns land and / or buildings which are leased to tenants.

Landlord and Tenant Act: Act which empowers applications (seeking extension of a lease or some other action concerning tenancy.

Law: The system made up of rules established by an act of parliament, custom or practice enjoining or prohibiting certain action (see also Common Law).

Law Lords: Describes the judges of the House of Lords who are known as the Lords of Appeal in ordinary.

Lawyer: The legal profession in the UK is divided into two branches. Barristers have the right to represent clients in higher courts whereas most solicitors are restricted to represent their clients in the lower courts.

Lay Representative: A person, not legally qualified, who accompanies another during a court hearing. The person may be a colleague, friend or spouse.

Leading Junior Counsel: A senior barrister who deals with more serious cases, but not a QC.

Lease: The letting of land or tenements, e.g. rent etc, for property for a prescribed period.

Leave: Leave means Ôpermission’. Some steps in legal action require the permission of the court. For example a losing party may be granted leave to appeal.

Legal Advice: Advice about the law and your options from a qualified legal representative or advice centre.

Legal Aid/Public Funding: State funded assistance, for those on low incomes, to cover legal fees.

Legatee: Person to whom personal estate is given by will.

Letters of Administration: Authority granted by a Probate Registry to someone interested in the estate of a person who has died without leaving a will. The order allows the ‘administrator’ to carry out the duties relating to the estate.

Levy: A duty carried out by a bailiff or sheriff under the authority of a warrant or writ of fi-fa, for a sum of money whereby goods of value belonging to the debtor are claimed with a view to removal and sale at a public auction in an attempt to obtain payment.

Liability: Responsibility or obligation. For example, a debt is a liability or responsibility.

Libel: A written and published statement/article which infers damaging remarks on a persons reputation.

Licence: Permission to carry out an act that would otherwise be considered illegal.

Lien: A legal right to withhold the goods/property of another until payment is made.

Listing Questionnaire: This form is used to ensure that all issues are resolved and that the parties are ready for trial. Used for Fast track and Multi track claims only.

Litigant in Person: A person who starts or defends a case without legal representation. Such a person is entitled to be accompanied by another person who may advise them, but may not address the court.

Litigation: Legal proceedings or court action. Litigation can be either civil or criminal proceedings.

Litigation friend: A person who conducts legal proceedings on behalf of a child or a mentally incapacitated person.

Lodging: The process of filing (delivering) documents to a court. See also filing.

Long Vacation: Period between 1 August and 30 September in each year during which there are only restricted High Court sittings for urgent matters.

Lord Chancellor: The cabinet minister who acts as speaker of the House of Lords and oversees the hearings of the Law Lords. Additional responsibilities include supervising the procedure of Courts other than Magistrates or Coroners Courts and selection of judges, magistrates, queens counsel and members of tribunals.

Lord Chief Justice: Senior judge of the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) who also heads the Queens Bench Division of the High Court of Justice).

Lord Justice of Appeal: Title given to certain judges sitting in the Court of Appeal.


Magistrates Court: A Court where criminal proceedings are commenced before justices of the peace who examine the evidence/statements and either deal with the case themselves or commit to the Crown Court for trial or sentence. Also has jurisdiction in a range of civil matters.

Maintenance Pending Suit: A temporary order for financial provision made within divorce proceedings until such time as the proceedings are finalised (i.e. by issue of the Decree Absolute).

Maladministration: Maladministration is administration that leads to injustice because of such factors as excessive delay, bias or arbitrary decision-making.

Master: Judicial officer of the High Court in the Royal Courts of Justice who normally deals with preliminary matters before trial.

Master of the Rolls: Senior judge of the Court of Appeal (Civil Division).

Matter: Proceedings commenced by way of originating application.

Mediation: A process for resolving disagreements in which an impartial third party (the mediator) helps people in dispute to find a mutually acceptable resolution. If mediation fails court proceedings can be initiated or re-activated.

Mesne Profits: Sum of money claimed by the owner of property against someone not legally entitled to be in possession. Calculated from the date the notice to quit expires until the date possession is given up.

Mitigation: Reasons submitted on behalf of a guilty party in order to excuse or partly excuse the offence committed in an attempt to minimise the sentence.

Money Claim: A claim for money only in the county court. The claim can be for a fixed on unspecified amount. See also unspecified amount of money.

Money Claim Online: An online Service that allows claimants to start legal proceedings which relate to money. Defendants can use the service to respond to a claim against them also.

Mortgage: A loan of money advanced to purchase property. The transfer of the property is withheld as security for payment.

Mortgagor: The party obtaining the loan.

Mortgagee: The party that advances the loan.

Motion: An application by one party to the High Court for an order in their favour.

Multi Track: The path that defended claims over £15000 are allocated to.


Non-Molestation: An order within an injunction to prevent one person physically attacking another.

Non-suit: Proceedings where the plaintiff has failed to establish to the Court’s satisfaction that there is a case for the defendant to answer.

Notary Public: Someone who is authorised to swear oaths and certify the execution of deeds.

Notice of Issue: Notice sent by a Court to the claimant giving notification of the case number allocated to their action and details of fees paid. Confirms date of service.

Notice to Quit: Gives prior notice, when served in possession proceedings, of termination of a tenancy.

Nullity: Application to the Court for a declaration that a marriage be declared ‘void’ or be annulled i.e. declared never to have existed or to have subsisted until the Court dissolved it.


Oath: To call upon God to witness that what you say at the hearing is the truth or binding.

Objection: Disagreement with an argument or set out by another at the hearing.

Official Receiver: A civil servant who works for the Department of trade and Industry and is appointed by the Court to act as:

  1. A liquidator when a company is being wound up.
  2. A trustee when an individual is made bankrupt. The duties of an official receiver will include examining the company/bankrupt’s property which is available to pay the debts and distributing the money amongst the creditors.

Official Solicitor: A solicitor or barrister appointed by the Lord Chancellor and working in the Lord Chancellor’s Department. The duties include representing, in legal proceedings, people who are incapable of looking after their own affairs i.e. children/persons suffering from mental illness.

Ombudsman: Independent Ôreferees’ who consider complaints against public and private organisations in a wide range of fields including housing, health and banking. They are often used as a last resort when complaints cannot be resolved through an organisation’s own complaints procedure. Ombudsman services are free to use. Recommendations made by ombudsmen are not binding on the person making the complaint (complainant). They can still go to court even if the ombudsman decided against them.

Oral Evidence: Evidence given to a court, verbally rather than in writing.

Oral examination: A method of questioning a person under oath before an officer of the Court to obtain details of their financial affairs.

Order: A direction by a Court.

Oral Evidence: Evidence given to a court, verbally rather than in writing.

Originating Application: A method of commencing proceedings under the authority of a specific act of parliament, e.g. Landlord and Tenant Act, whereby the applicant asks the Court to grant an order in their favour.

Ouster: An order within an injunction to force a person to leave a property.


Particulars of claim: This document contains details of the claimant’s claim which must be contained in the claim form or served shortly after the claim form has been served. The particulars should be a concise statement of the facts of the claim.

Party/parties: People involved in court proceedings either as the defendant(s) or claimant(s).

Party and Party: Costs that one party must pay to another.

Patient: A person who is deemed incapable of handling his/her own affairs by reason of mental incapacity and who is under the jurisdiction of the Court of Protection.

Penal Notice: Directions attached to an order of a Court stating the penalty for disobedience may result in imprisonment.

Personal Application: Application made to the Court without legal representation.

Personal injury claim: A civil claim, which relates to physical or mental harm suffered by a claimant, due to the defendant’s alleged negligence.

Personal Service: Personal delivery (i.e. not by mail) of a claim, summons or notice.

Petition: A method of commencing proceedings whereby the order required by the petitioner from the Court is expressed as a prayer, e.g. the petitioner therefore prays that the marriage be dissolved (divorce proceedings).

Petitioner: A person who presents the petition.

Plea: A defendant’s reply to a charge put to him by a court; i.e. guilty or not guilty.

Pleading: Documents setting out claim/defence of parties involved in civil proceedings.

Possession Claim Online: An online Service which allows claimants to start legal proceedings related to property online. Defendants can use the service to respond to a claim against them also.

Possession Proceedings: Legal proceedings by a landlord to recover land or property such as a house or flat.

Power of Arrest: An order attached to some injunctions to allow the police to arrest a person who has broken the terms of the order.

Practice Directions: These are steps to be followed by parties to a dispute prior to legal action. The aim of the to increase co-operation between parties and therefore the chances of an early settlement.

Pre-action protocols: These are steps to be followed by parties to a dispute prior to legal action. The aim is to increase co-operation between parties and therefore the chances of an early settlement.

Precedent: The decision of a case which established principles of law that act as an authority for future cases of a similar nature.

Preliminary Hearing: A hearing in which the Judge ensures that the parties understand what they must do to comply with any directions and offers guidance on such matters as the use of an expert witness. This hearing is before the final hearing.

Probate: The legal recognition of the validity of a will.

Process: The document commencing a claim or subsequent action.

Prosecution: The institution or conduct of criminal proceedings against a person.

Public Trustee: A person (usually a barrister or solicitor) appointed by the Lord Chancellor as:

  1. Trustee for trusts managed by the Public trust Office;
  2. Accountant General for Court Funds;

iii. Receiver (of last resort) for Court of Protection patients.

Puisne Judge: (Pronounced Puny) High Court judge. Any judge of the High Court other than the heads of each division. The word puisne means junior and is used to distinguish High Court judges from senior judges sitting at the Court of Appeal.


Quash: To annul; i.e. to declare no longer valid.

Quasi-judicial functions: A quasi-judicial function is an executive function that involves the exercise of discretion (judgment). Court staff perform quasi-judicial executive functions such as managing the issuing of claims, serving court documents and deciding what would be reasonable for the defendant to pay for example, see determination.

Quantum: In a damages claim the amount to be determined by the court.

Queens Bench Division: A division of the High Court. The QBD has jurisdiction (reasonability for) civil disputes involving the recovery of money, including breach of contract; personal injuries; libel and slander.

Queen’s Counsel (QC): Barristers of at least ten years standing may apply to become queen’s counsel. QCs undertake work of an important nature and are referred to as ‘silks’ which is derived from the Courts gown that is worn. Will be known as king’s counsel if a king assumes the throne.


Re-allocation: Transferring the case from one allocated track to another. This can happen if the value of the case increases.

Receiver: Person appointed by the Court of Protection to act on behalf of a patient.

Recognisance: An undertaking before the Court by which a person agrees to comply with a certain condition, e.g. keep the peace/appear in court. A sum of money is normally pledged to ensure compliance.

Redetermination (civil): If the defendant or claimant objects to the rate of repayment set by a court officer, the judge will decide on the matter. See Determination.

Redetermination (criminal): An application by a solicitor or counsel for amounts assessed by determination to be reconsidered.

Register of judgments, orders and fines: A public register containing details of county court and High Court judgments, fines enforced by magistrates’ courts and county court administration orders.

Registrar: Registrars and deputy registrars were renamed DISTRICT Judges and Deputy DISTRICT Judges respectively in the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990.

Registry Trust Limited (RTL): The company contracted to the Ministry of Justice to maintain the Register of Judgments Orders and Fines. You can find out if an individual or a company at a particular address has unsatisfied (unpaid) court judgments against them by searching the Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines. There is a small fee for this. You can get further information about searching the Register from: Registry Trust Ltd, 73-75 Cleveland Street, London, WT 6QR.

Released: A witness is released (freed from an obligation or duty) by the court, when he or she has given evidence in a case.

Remand: To order an accused person to be kept in custody or placed on bail pending further Court appearance.

Restitution: Where a defendant who has been evicted by a bailiff illegally re-enters the property the claimant must issue a warrant of restitution with the court in order to regain possession.

Right of Audience: Entitlement to appear before a Court in a legal capacity and conduct proceedings on behalf of a party to the proceedings.


Sanction: A penalty imposed on a person involved in a case if he or she, for example, fails to comply with directions or refuses to consider an alternative to court. Even though a person wins a case, the judge may order them to pay the other party’s costs.

Security of Tenure: A period in which something is held.

Settlement: A voluntarily agreement by the claimant and defendant to settle their civil case.

Sherrif: An officer of the Crown whose duties, amongst other things, consist of the enforcement of High Court writs of execution.

Skeleton Argument: A written summary of the main points of a case to be heard by an appeal court.

Silk: Queens Counsel, a senior barrister sometimes referred to as a leader or leading counsel.

Slander: Spoken words which have a damaging effect on a person’s reputation.

Small Claims Track: The path that defended claims of no more than £5,000 (and personal injury and housing disrepair claims of no more than £1,000) are allocated to.

Solicitor: Member of the legal profession chiefly concerned with advising clients and preparing their cases and representing them in some Courts. May also act as advocates before certain Courts or tribunals.

Specified Claim: A type of claim which is issued for a fixed amount of money allegedly owing. Previously known as a liquidated claim.

Statement: A written account by a witness of the facts of details of a matter.

Statement of Case: The statement of case contains the outline of the claimant’s case and includes: (i) a claim form, (ii) the particulars of claim Ð where these are not included in the claim form; (iii) the defence and (iv) a reply to the defence (v) any counterclaim.

Statement of Truth: Every statement of case must be verified by a statement of truth, signed by the parties involved. A statement of truth is a statement that says that a party believes the facts they have written down are true.

Statutory Instrument: A document issued by the delegated authority (usually a Government Minister or committee) named within an act of parliament which affects the workings of the original Act, e.g. The County Courts Act 1984 confers authority on to the County Court Rule Committee to make rules relating to the operation of the County Courts act.

Stay: A suspension of court proceedings. This remains in effect until an order has been followed. No action may be taken in the case other than an application to have the stay lifted. A case can also be stayed when an offer of payment is accepted or if the court feels it is necessary.

Stay of Execution: An order following which judgment cannot be enforced without leave of the court.

Subpoena: A summons issued to a person directing their attendance in Court to give evidence.

Suit: Legal proceedings commenced by petition.

Suitor: Person bringing a suit before the Courts.

Summary Assessment (of costs): When a court makes a cost order it may make a summary assessment of costs immediately after it has made the order. The court will usually make a summary assessment.

Summary Judgment: A judgment obtained by a claimant where there is no defence to the case or the defence contains no valid grounds. A summary judgment can be obtained without a trial or hearing. A defendant can also obtain summary judgment if he or she can establish that the claimant has no real prospect of succeeding on the claim. You have to apply to the court for a summary judgement hearing to take place.

Summary Offence: A criminal offence which is triable only by a Magistrates Court.

Summary procedure: A procedure by which the court when making an order about costs, orders payment of a sum of money instead of fixed costs or detailed assessment.

Summing Up: A review of the evidence and directions as to the law by a judge immediately before a jury retires to consider its verdict.

Summons: Order to appear or to produce evidence to a court.

Summons (Jury): Order to attend for jury service.

Summons Witness: Order to appear as a witness at a hearing.

Supreme Court of Judicature: Collective name encompassing – High Court of Justice, Crown Court and Court of Appeal.

Suspended Sentence: A custodial sentence which will not take effect unless there is a subsequent offence within a specified period.


Taxation of Costs: An examination of a solicitor’s bill in civil proceedings by a Court to ensure that all charges against the legal aid fund are fair and reasonable.

Tenant: A person which holds land or property under a lease.

Testor: A person who makes a will.

Third Party: Person who is not party to a legal case, but may be relevant because he or she owes the defendant money. In that case the defendant can issue a third party notice against such a party.

Third Party Debt Order: An order issued by a Claimant, against a third party, to seize money or other assets in their keeping, but belonging to the debtor. Orders can be granted preventing a defendant from withdrawing money from their bank or building society account. The money is paid to the claimant from the account. A third party debt order can also be sent to anyone who owes the defendant money.

Trial: A public hearing in which the evidence in a case, and the law which applies, are examined.

Trial (civil): Civil trials are generally held before one or more judges without a jury. The form and length of a civil trial will depend on the track to which the case has been allocated.

Trial Bundles: These are the documents that are likely to be referred to in a trial or tribunal hearing. Identical bundles are prepared for the judge and the parties to the case.

Trial Contents: The contents of the trial include any written statements and documents in trial bundles.

Trial Window: A period of time within which the case must be listed for trial.

Tribunal: A tribunal is a body outside of the court structure. They hear disputes relating to specific areas such as immigration, employment and some tax matters and adjudicate on them. Tribunals are thought to be cheap and fast and allow expert knowledge to be applied.

Trust: Property legally entrusted to a person with instructions to use it for another person (or persons benefit).

Trustee: A person who holds or administers property in a trust for another (or others).


Undertaking: A promise, which can be enforced by law, made by a party (person) or their legal representative during legal proceedings.

Unspecified Claim: A claim where the amount to be awarded is left to the Court to determine, e.g. damages to be assessed for personal injuries. Previously known as an unliquidated claim.


Varied order: If a defendant has been ordered to pay an amount in full or by instalments, which they cannot afford, they can ask the court to vary the order to allow payment by instalments or by reduced instalments.

Verdict: The finding of guilty or not guilty by a jury.

Vice Chancellor: Senior judge and head of the Chancery Division of the High Court of Justice (although the Lord Chancellor) is the nominal head.


Walking Possession: A signed agreement by a debtor not to remove goods levied by a bailiff under the authority of a warrant of execution and to allow the bailiff access at any time to inspect the goods, in consideration of which the bailiff leaves the goods in the possession of the debtor.

Wardship: High Court action making a minor a ward of court.

Warrant of Committal: Method of enforcing an order of the Court whereby the penalty for failing to comply with its terms is imprisonment; the bailiff is authorised to carry out the arrest and deliver the person to prison (or in some instances the Court).

Warrant of Delivery: Method of enforcing a judgment for the return of goods (or value of the goods) whereby a bailiff is authorised to recover the goods (or their value) from the debtor and return them to the creditor.

Warrant of Execution: A method of enforcing a judgment, The bailiff is authorised to remove goods belonging to a defendant from their home or business for sale at public auction.

Warrant of Possession: This gives court bailiffs the authority to take possession of a property and evict the defendant in cases, where an order for possession has been granted by a court.

Warrant of Restitution: A remedy available following illegal re-entry of premises by persons evicted under a warrant of possession. The bailiff is authorised to evict all occupants found on the premises and re-deliver the premises to the plaintiff.

Will: A declaration of a person’s intentions to distribute his/her estate and assets.

Winding up: The voluntary or compulsory closure of a company and the subsequent realisation of assets and payment to creditors.

Witness: A person who gives evidence in Court, called to give evidence because they witnesses an event.

Witness summons: A document issued by a court which requires a person to give evidence in court or to produce a report or other documentation for the court.

Written Evidence/statement: A written statement of relevant facts which is submitted to the court.