Adjust Text Size  





Accused person :

the person who is charged with a criminal offence.

Acquittal :

the charges against the accused person are dismissed by the judge.

Adjournment :

when the judge postpones the matter before the court to another date and time.  The delay may be used to prepare a report, or to get a lawyer, or to prepare for trial.

Allegation :

a statement by a victim of what happened.

Appeal :

to ask a higher court to change a lower court’s decision.

Arrest :

when the police take a person into their custody for the purpose of charging them with a criminal offence.

Attorney General :

this is the provincial government department that prosecutes offences.  The prosecutor, whether he or she is a police officer or a crown attorney, works for the Attorney General.


B  top

Bail :

the amount of money posted as a guarantee that the accused will appear in court on all the specified court dates.

Bail hearing :

a hearing before a judge to decide whether the accused person should be released from jail before the trial.

Burden of proof :

by law, the crown is completely responsible for proving the accused guilty in court "beyond a reasonable doubt."  The accused does not have to prove that he or she is innocent, does not have to testify, and does not even have to have any witnesses testify.


C  top

Charge(s) :

the formal claim that places blame on the accused for breaking the law.

Children's Aid Society :

an organisation that deals with children whose families need help to care for them.  Not all provinces have Children's Aid Societies.  In some provinces, a Director of Child Welfare or a Superintendent of Child Welfare does this work.

Complainant :

the victim.

Conviction :

the formal declaration by the judge that the accused is guilty.  This happens after the person has pleaded guilty or has been found guilty.  The guilty person receives a sentence other than a discharge.

Court clerk :

the judge’s assistant.  The clerk sits at the desk in front of the judge and helps the judge run the court by swearing people in as witnesses, keeping track of case documents, and reading verdicts.

Court officers :

officers of the court who make sure the court operates in an orderly way.  Like police officers, the court officers wear uniforms.  They also make sure that all the people in court remain safe.

Credibility :

the issue of whether or not an individual’s statements are believable.

Criminal Code :

the Criminal Code is a law passed only by the federal government.  The offences in the Criminal Code are those offences that the federal government considers most serious and harmful in Canada.  If a young person under 18 is charged with breaking the criminal law, the Youth Criminal Justice Act will apply.  This act replaced the Young Offenders Act on April 1, 2003.

Cross-examine :

an opportunity for the opposing lawyer to ask a witness questions about evidence, which has already been presented to the court.

Crown Attorney/Crown Counsel :

a lawyer who acts for the government as a prosecutor.


D  top

Defence :

a denial or answer to a charge against an accused person.

Defence lawyer :

a lawyer who represents an accused person.


E  top

Evidence :

the information or findings provided by a witness that is used to decide upon the guilt or innocence of the person charged with an offence.


G  top

Guilty :

a determination which shows that the crown attorney has successfully presented the facts in a way that met the "burden of proof" beyond a reasonable doubt.


I  top

Indictable Offence :

offences are divided into two types, summary and indictable.  Indictable offences are the more serious kind and result in harsher punishment than do summary offences.

Interview :

a face to face conversation between the witness, police or crown attorney where they meet to question facts, information and statements provided to them.

Investigation :

the process during which professionals from different disciplines gather the facts about what happened.


J  top

Judge :

the person who is authorised to hear cases in court and make sure the court is run in an orderly manner.


O  top

Objection :

when a lawyer protests a certain question or testimony asked to the witness.  Usually, the lawyer proclaims "objection" to interrupt and stop the line of questioning before the witness responds.


P  top

Plea :

the formal answer the accused person gives the judge to the charges of guilty or not guilty according to the law.

Preliminary hearing :

this hearing is set up before a judge for the purpose of determining if the crown attorney has enough evidence of the accused’s guilt to move forward to a trial.

Presumed innocent :

even after a person has been arrested or charged with a crime, the law says that the accused person must be considered innocent until the crown proves him or her guilty.

Promise to appear :

a legal document signed by the accused person in which the person promises to appear in court on a set date.

Prosecutor :

the person who will present the evidence against the accused in court.  He or she may be an experienced police officer, a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer, a trained lawyer or some other person.  This person may also be called the Crown or the Crown Attorney.

Police statement :

the report or complaint given by the victim to the police.  If the police decide to investigate, the information is transcribed into an official report describing the events and people involved in the crime.


R  top

Restraining order :

is a court order which prevents a person from doing certain things i.e. harassing the victim or going near the victim.  If the person breaks a condition of the restraining order, the victim should immediately call the police so that they can enforce the restraining order.


S  top

Sentence :

the consequence given by a judge for the offence that was committed.  It may be an absolute discharge or a punishment.

Sexual assault :

any type of sexual activity that is unwanted, by someone to whom you have not given your consent.  A sexual assault may include the use of physical force, threats or intimidation.  Sexual assault is a crime.  For more information please visit

Subpoena :

a court order sent to a witness, requiring the witness to be present in court.  A subpoena is most often delivered by an officer of the court.


T  top

Testify :

to answer questions in court, under the oath to tell the truth.

Testimony :

a statement made by a witness under oath, affirmation or a promise to tell the truth in response to questions asked by the crown prosecutor, defense lawyer or the judge.


V  top

Verdict :

the decision of the judge or jury.

Victim Impact Statement :

at the time of sentencing victims and their families can make a written or verbal statement to the judge about how they feel about what happened and what the effects of the crime are.  In deciding what sentence the accused will receive, the judge considers the victim impact statement along with the recommendations from the crown attorney and the defence attorney.

Victim/Witness Assistance Program :

a support person who guides victims and witnesses through the court system.


W  top

Witness :

a person who testifies, under oath, affirmation or promise to tell the truth, what he or she saw or heard happen.

Witness stand :

on the witness stand, the witness will be asked to swear an oath, affirm or testify on promising to tell the truth, and will answer questions.


Y  top

Youth Court :

the court that deals with criminal charges against a young person under the age of 18.

» 1 Privacy Statement » 2 Disclaimer » 3 Credits » 4 Survey
» 5 « Definitions » 6 Provincial Links » 7 Sitemap