A-Z criminal law legal terms

Whether you need a criminal defence solicitor, barrister or lawyer, when you speak to our legal specialists you won’t feel like we’re speaking a different language. We don’t see any point in baffling you with legal jargon and will always explain any legal terminology so that you understand what it means just as well as we do.
Here are some of the most common legal terms that are specific to criminal defence cases, offences and sentences, which should provide you with an overview of different aspects of criminal law.


The case is suspended to take place at another time.

Bail Conditions

Bail is when someone if released from custody whilst awaiting the conclusion of their case.  Conditions can be attached to that bail by the court.  Typical conditions include residence at their known address and reporting at the police station.

Community Order

A sentence imposed by the court requiring somebody to carry out socially beneficial work instead of going to prison.

Confiscation Order

An order made against a convicted defendant ordering him to pay the amount of his benefit from crime.  A confiscation order is not directed towards a particular asset. It does not deprive the defendant or anyone else of title to any property.

Criminal Procedure

The framework of laws and rules that govern the administration of justice in cases involving an individual who has been accused of a crime, beginning with the initial investigation of the crime and concluding either with the unconditional release of the accused by virtue of acquittal (a judgment of not guilty) or by the imposition of a term of punishment pursuant to a conviction for the crime.

Crown Court

The more serious offences are passed on to the Crown Court, either for sentencing after the defendant has been found guilty in a magistrates’ court, or for full trial with a judge and jury.

Custodial Sentence

A sentence imposed by the court requiring you to remain in prison for a period of time.

Either-way Offences

As the name implies, these can be dealt with either by magistrates or before a judge and jury at the Crown Court. Such offences include theft and handling stolen goods. A defendant can insist on their right to trial in the Crown Court. Magistrates can also decide that a case is so serious that it should be dealt with in the Crown Court – which can impose tougher sentences if the defendant is found guilty.

Heabus Corpus

A court order that commands an individual or a government official who has restrained another to produce the prisoner at a designated time and place so that the court can determine the legality of custody and decide whether to order the prisoner’s release.

Indictable-only Offences

These are offences such as murder, manslaughter, rape and robbery. These must be heard at a Crown Court.

Judicial Review

The review of a decision by a public body by the court.

Legal Aid

Free legal advice or representation for a person who is eligible for it.

Magistrates Court

Virtually all criminal court cases start in a magistrates’ court.  They are able to deal with summary only offences, either way offences and deal with the first hearing of an indictable only offence.

Parole Board

A group of individuals with authority to determine whether a prisoner will be granted parole from a particular prison.


The defendant answer to the charge against them.

Prison Adjudication

Disciplinary proceedings before a Governor or an Independent Adjudicator in the prison.  These proceedings will be commenced if an inmate breaches prison rules.

Summary Offences

These are less serious cases, such as motoring offences and minor assaults, where the defendant is not usually entitled to trial by jury. They are generally disposed of in magistrates’ courts.


If a warrant is issued for your arrest you can arrange to surrender to the warrant which means, ‘handing yourself in’.

Suspended Sentence

A sentence imposed on somebody found guilty of a crime that need not be served as long as the individual commits no other crime during the term of the sentence.  Other conditions are usually attached to the suspended sentence such as a requirement to complete a community order or a curfew.


A document issued by a legal or government official authorizing the police or some other body to make an arrest, search premises, or carry out some other action relating to the administration of justice.