Other Information - Court Words

In this section, we have explained some of the court words that you may hear and wonder what they mean:


Accused :

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.

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 :

the provincial government department that administers the justice system by providing a wide range of legal services.  For example, the Crown prosecutors, police and members of the court work for the Ministry of the Attorney General.


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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.

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.


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Charges :

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 :

someone who accuses or blames someone for a crime of a wrongdoing. This can be the victim of a crime.

Conviction :

the formal declaration by the judge or the verdict of a jury that someone 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 :

provides support to judges, attorneys and other relevant individuals in the court.  Their role in the courtroom includes swearing and affirming witnesses and recording important information about the court proceeding.

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 offences that the federal government considers 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.  The Criminal Code is updated often to improve the criminal process.

Cross-Examine :

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

Crown Prosecutor/Counsel :

a lawyer who acts for the government as a prosecutor.


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Defence :

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

Defence Lawyer/Attorney :

a lawyer who represents an accused person.  The defence lawyer presents arguments and evidence to show the accused person is innocent.


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Evidence :

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


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Guilty :

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


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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.

Investigation :

is the process by which professionals from different disciplines collect information or evidence about a crime to find facts about what happened.


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Judge :

the person who is authorized to hear cases in court and make judgments based on the law.


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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 answers the question.


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Plea :

the answer made by an accused person when they have been charged with a crime. Saying whether or not they are guilty of that crime.

Preliminary Hearing :

this hearing is set up before a judge, for the purpose of determining if the Crown prosecutor 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 that person 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 :

a lawyer who will present the evidence against the accused in court.  In Canada, 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.


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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 they can enforce the restraining order.


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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 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 document ordering a person to appear as a witness before a court or to produce documents or other materials to testify before that court.


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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, defence attorney or the judge.


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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 the crime has affected them.  The judge considers the victim impact statement when deciding on the consequence for the offender.  The judge considers the victim impact statement along with the recommendations from the Crown prosecutor and the defence attorney.

Victim Witness Assistance Program :

a government sponsored program that supports victims and witnesses through the court system.


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Witness :

someone who witnessed a crime and/or was a victim of a crime.  A witness receives an order from the court (a subpoena) to answer questions about a case.

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 from the Crown prosecutor and the defence attorney.


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Youth Court :

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