1Any word or phrase followed by (q.v.) is defined elsewhere in the glossary
2Some words have an ordinary meaning as well as the specific legal meaning given here.
abate To reduce, remove or minimise. Can be used to bargain an outcome. To abate a nuisance (q.v.) is to remove or reduce it without violence or unnecessary damage. Abatement is an alternative to bringing a court action.
abduction Unlawful removal of a person, often a child, from their home environment.
abrogate To repeal or cancel. An act that repeals whole or part of an existing Act or a rule of common law (q.v.) is said to abrogate that Act or law.
absolute privilege The protection given to parliamentary and court proceedings that any information produced or revealed in them cannot give rise to an action for defamation (q.v.).
abuse of process Misuse or unjust use of court procedure, e.g. long delay in bringing an action may disadvantage a defendant.
acquit To discharge. To find an accused “not guilty” after trial.
act of bankruptcy An action of a debtor (q.v.) that shows an inability to pay their creditors (q.v.).
actus reus Voluntary actions or omissions constituting a crime; the physical element of an offence. The actus reus may be a positive act or failure to act.
adduce To present as evidence (q.v.) in court.
adjourn To suspend a court hearing to a future specified day or sine die (q.v.). Also, adjournment.
adjournment without conviction A sentencing order of a good behaviour bond (q.v.). A conviction is not recorded if the bond is observed. Can also known as a deferred sentence or suspended sentence.
administrative act A decision, or refusal to make a decision, by an officer of a government department and which is subject to review either internally or externally by the courts. see fiat.
administrative law Rules that govern the decision making process of public officials covering their powers, functions and procedures to follow.
adversary system The system used to decide court cases in Australia, where the opposing parties (q.v.) argue against each other, with a judge or magistrate as an independent decision maker or arbitrator.
affidavit A written document sworn on oath before a person with authority to administer it for the purpose of providing evidence for a court case. The person in whose name the document is sworn is called the deponent.
affirmation A pledge that statements made are true which may be made in place of an oath if an oath is contrary to a person’s religious belief or if the person has no religious belief. It can be used where a person is giving evidence (q.v.) in a court or where a declaration or affidavit (q.v.) is being made.
alibi Defence to a criminal charge (q.v.) on the grounds that the accused was somewhere other than the scene of a crime when that crime was committed.
alleged Said to be the case, but not yet proved.
ADR (alternative dispute resolution) Process for resolving disputes outside the court system, e.g. through mediation (q.v.), negotiation (q.v.), arbitration (q.v.) or conciliation (q.v.).
amenity Features, benefits or advantages of the local environment that people currently enjoy. A park, for instance, is a local amenity.
amicus curiae Friend of the court. Someone who advises the court on a particular matter but does not represent any of the parties in the action.
annuity A sum of money payable yearly, such as a payment made under a will.
annul To put an end to, cancel, render void (q.v.) in law.
appeal To have a case go a higher court in order that a decision from a lower court or tribunal be reviewed.
appellant A person who appeals (q.v.) a decision of a court or tribunal to a higher court
arbitration A procedure for resolving disputes that involves less formality than a court hearing. An arbitrator’s decision is final and cannot be appealed.
arrears Payment that is overdue or made after the date when it fell due.
arrest To take into custody usually for the purpose of bringing the person to court
assessable income Income on which liability to pay income tax is calculated.
assignment Legal transfer of a right or an interest in property from the owner to another person.
asylum Refuge or protection from persecution, usually in another country. Alternatively, a place for the detention and treatment of the insane.
at large (An animal) not securely confined to the owner’s property. A person who has committed an offence (q.v.) and is still to be captured or who has escaped from legal custody.
attachment of earnings A court order that a debtor’s (q.v.) employer pays an amount of the debtor’s wages regularly to the creditor until the debt is paid off.
attestation clause A witnessing clause, e.g., a will contains an attestation clause stating the witnesses saw the testator (q.v.) sign and that they signed the will in the presence of the testator and each other.
bail The payment of money in order to be set free when one is in remand awaiting trial. This acts as a guarantee that the accused will appear in court to answer the charges otherwise the bail payment will be forfeited.
bail bond A form signed by a person released on bail (q.v.) setting out the conditions of release.
bail justice A person who is not a judge or magistrate but who has authority to grant or refuse bail (q.v.), usually at a police station.
balance of probabilities The standard of proof (q.v.) required in civil law (q.v.) cases, i.e. it is more probable than not that what the person says happened is true. In criminal cases, the standard is proof beyond reasonable doubt (q.v.).
bankruptcy A person or organisation in a position of not being able to pay their debts in full to their creditors.
beneficiary A person who is left something in a will, or a person for whose benefit property is held by trustees or executors. Can also be known as a legatee (q.v.) or trust (q.v.).
bequeathed The act of giving a person something by listing their name as the beneficiary (recipient) in a will.
beyond reasonable doubt The standard of proof (q.v.) required in criminal cases. If there is any doubt as to the guild of the accused, then a verdict of not guilty must be given. In civil cases, the standard is on the balance of probabilities (q.v.).
bias A pre-existing attitude or opinion that favours one side over another in a dispute.
bill of sale A document that enables one person to possess and use goods, the possessor, while another has legal ownership, usually a person or company that has lent money for the purchase of the goods. see goods mortgage.
bond A deed (q.v.) in which a person undertakes to do or refrain from doing certain things, e.g. good behaviour bond. Also, money paid to a landlord by a tenant at the start of a tenancy as security in case of future damage to premises or non-payment of rent.
breach of contract Failure by one of the parties to a contract (q.v.) to satisfactorily perform the service or action agreed to in the contract.
burden of proof The obligation to prove what is alleged. In criminal cases, this obligation rests on the prosecution, which must prove its case beyond reasonable doubt (q.v.). In civil cases, it rests on the plaintiff, who must prove their case on the balance of probabilities (q.v.). Sometimes, however, this burden shifts, for example, where the defendant raises particular defences.
business purpose declaration A statement signed by a debtor (q.v.) before entering a credit contract (q.v.) that the credit is for business, not domestic, purposes.
by-laws Former name of local laws (q.v.).
capacity The ability to understand and give legal consent (q.v.) to an action or arrangement. Full legal capacity is reached at 18 years of age when a child becomes an adult.
case law The law based on decisions made by judges in previous case. see common law.
caveat Translated from Latin it means to ‘beware’. A notice given to an appropriate officer ordering them not to take a certain step until the person giving the notice (the caveator) has had an opportunity to object e.g. to a transfer of land.
certificate of title A document prepared by the Titles Office that shows details of land registered under the Torrens system, particulars of the location, encumbrances (q.v.) and owners.
certiorari A form of writ (q.v.) by which actions for review of administrative decisions are commenced in the Supreme Court. Now termed “an order in the nature of certiorari”.
character witness A person who appears in court to give a reference for an accused person. see witness.
charge An accusation made against a person or organisation that they have committed a criminal offence (q.v.). Also, a judge’s directions to a jury (q.v.) at the end of a case.
chattel Any property that is not freehold land. It may be a leasehold, called a chattel real, or a movable article of property, a chattel personal.
child maintenance order A parenting order (q.v.) setting out arrangements for the financial support of a child after marriage breakdown.
citizen’s arrest An arrest (q.v.) by any person who is not a police officer or who does not have a warrant (q.v.) to arrest.
civil action Legal proceedings between two or more private persons. Sometimes a private person may bring a civil action against the state.
civil law Law that is not criminal or church law, usually the former, it may mean law based on the Roman system. The body of law relating to civil matters (q.v.) between private individuals and/or organisations as opposed to the criminal law (q.v.). Throughout this book, civil law means non-criminal law.
civil matters Disputes between private individuals and/or organisations in contrast to criminal law matters that are between the state and an individual and/or an organisation.
clear title Outright ownership, without any debts or charges on the property.
code of practice A set of guidelines for fair practice developed for a specific industry, occupation, trade or profession. May be voluntary (q.v.) or statutory (q.v.).
codicil A document signed by a willmaker that alters or adds to an existing will.
cohabitation Living together as a couple sharing an emotional and sexual relationship. Also, where any number of people lives together on a long-term basis as do members of a family.
collateral contract A separate contract (q.v.) that precedes or exists alongside the main one.
combined custody and treatment order A sentence that is served partly in prison and partly in the community undergoing supervised alcohol and/or drug treatment.
committal proceedings Where a Magistrates’ Court hears evidence (q.v.) on an indictable charge (q.v.) and decides whether the accused should be sent for trial. Can also be called a preliminary examination (q.v.).
common law The part of English law traditionally based on common custom and being unwritten. Law that is not equity (q.v.), statute (q.v.), ecclesiastical (church), or civil (i.e. Roman).
common law defence A defence based on decisions in previous cases.
CTO (community treatment order) Treatment of an involuntary patient (q.v.) by a medical practitioner in the community, not in a mental hospital.
Community Visitor An voluntary, independent person with authority to monitor and report on the performance of mental health services and the welfare of their patients.
CBO (community-based order) A sentencing order, as an alternative to imprisonment, requiring a person to undertake unpaid or educational work in the community for a set number of hours under the supervision of the Office of Corrections.
compensation order A court order that a person found guilty of a criminal offence (q.v.) must pay for loss or damage of property caused by the offence. The payment would be paid to the affected individual or business.
compensatory damages Damages (q.v.) paid to the winning party (q.v.) in a civil (q.v.) action to compensate them for damage they have suffered as a result of the actions of the losing party. May be aggravated (q.v.).
complainant A person who begins a criminal prosecution against another in the Magistrates’ Court. In a civil action they could also be referred to as a plaintiff.
comprehensive insurance Insurance that covers claims against the insured by other persons for damage to their property as well as covering the insured for damage to their own property.
conciliation Process of resolving disputes that involves negotiations (q.v.) between parties, assisted by a conciliator. Conciliation aims for mutual agreement rather than a decision in favour of one side.
condition precedent A condition that delays the coming into effect of a right, usually under a contract (q.v.), until that condition is fulfilled.
conduct money Money that must be provided to a witness (q.v.) subpoenaed (q.v.) to court to cover the cost of travel, and other associated costs, to and from court.
confidential relationship A relationship where one party (q.v.) depends on or trusts the authority or professional independence of the other party.
confidentiality Protection against disclosure to an outside person of information revealed in a professional relationship, e.g. doctor–patient.
conflict of interest A situation where a person’s own interests, or a duty towards someone else, may corruptly affect the way they carry out a duty towards others.
consent Agreement to an action or arrangement. see informed consent.
consumer lease A contract (q.v.) for hire of goods by a person for a specified period and rental payment/s.
contact order A parenting order (q.v.) that states the kind and frequency of contact between a child and another person – usually the parent with whom the child is not living.
contempt of court The failure to obey a court order or an act that shows a disregard for the authority of the court or judge. A person in contempt may face imprisonment.
contest mention hearing A preliminary hearing/examination (q.v.) in criminal cases where parties can try to reach agreement on some matters before the full hearing.
contract A legally enforceable agreement between two or more people or organisations with enforceable obligations and promises.
contravene To breach, neglect or refuse to comply with a particular requirement, condition or court order.
contributory negligence A defence in an action for damages (q.v.) for injuries arising from the defendant’s negligence. The defendant attempts to prove that the plaintiff’s own negligence caused or contributed to the injuries suffered.
conveyance A transfer of real property (q.v.).
convict At the end of a criminal trial to find the accused guilty of a crime.
cooling-off period The time during which a purchaser can withdraw from a contract (q.v.) after signing.
copyright The rights belonging to the owner or licensee of literary, artistic and dramatic works, films and sound recordings, to reproduce, perform or otherwise deal with these works.
corporal punishment Any physical punishment, usually one causing pain.
corroboration Independent evidence (q.v.) that supports the main evidence.
cost indemnity rule The rule, applying in many court proceedings, that the losing side must pay the legal costs (q.v.) incurred by the other side in the action. see costs.
costs The legal fees and expenses incurred by each party (q.v.) in legal proceedings. The losing party usually must pay the costs of the winning party. see cost indemnity rule.
counterclaim Where the defendant has a claim against the plaintiff that might have been brought by bringing a separate action, the defendant may raise it in the existing action by adding a statement of the facts on which the claim is made to the statement of defence.
covenant An agreement creating an obligation contained in a deed (q.v.) or land title. A covenant may serve the same purpose as a (q.v.).
cover note A document provided by an insurer as evidence (q.v.) of temporary insurance cover before a formal policy is issued.
credit charges Charges for which a consumer who enters into a credit contract (q.v.) will be liable in addition to the sum borrowed and any interest payable.
credit contract A contract (q.v.) for deferred payment of a debt owed by one person or organisation to another.
creditor A person or company to whom a debt is owed.
cross-vesting Process by which a superior court can exercise the jurisdiction of another, e.g. between state supreme courts and federal courts.
cumulative sentence An order by a court for two or more periods of imprisonment be served one after the other. see concurrent sentence.
custodial sentence A sentence of imprisonment.
custody Control over a person by keeping them in custody; e.g. when arrested and not free to leave; formerly, care and control of a child.
damages A court order for money to be paid as compensation for a loss suffered as a result of a civil wrong or breach of contract (q.v.). see compensatory damages; general damages; nominal damages; special damages.
debt Money that is owed by one person or business to another.
debt agreement An arrangement between the creditor and debtor for dealing with unpaid debts (q.v.) that is less formal and intrusive than bankruptcy (q.v.).
debtor A person who owes a debt.
decree absolute A final order from the Family Court that a marriage has been terminated. Both parties are now free to remarry. see decree nisi; divorce; marriage.
decree of dissolution of marriage Divorce. see decree nisi; decree absolute; divorce
decree nisi An order that a marriage is terminated until a decree absolute is issued. During a decree nisi neither party (q.v.) may remarry. see decree absolute; divorce; marriage.
decree of nullity An order that a marriage is not legally valid.
deed A written document that is signed, sealed and delivered. “Sealing”, attaching a seal with wax, is no longer necessary. “Delivering” is traditionally completed when the person signing the document says, “I deliver this as my act and deed”.
deemed To be treated as.
defamation Publication, in the press, electronic media or by word of mouth, of false and derogatory statements about another person, without any justification recognised by law. see slander, libel.
default To fail in some duty, i.e. to fail to do something you were meant to do. So, default rate – rate of interest charged on overdue payments; default summons – summons that alleges the debtor/defendant (q.v.) has failed to pay money due and owing. The summons may be ordinary or special.
defendant A person who has been charged with a criminal offence (q.v.), or against whom a civil action (q.v.) has been brought.
delegated legislation Laws made by bodies subordinate to parliament. These laws may be regulations/rules (q.v.), local laws (q.v.) or Orders-in-Council. see regulations/rules; local laws; Orders-in-Council.
delegation Allowing lower ranking officials to make decisions on behalf of the person responsible by law for making the decision. Also, to delegate.
deportation Expulsion from a country of a resident non-citizen who has committed a serious crime or is considered a threat to national security.
determination A judicial decision. Also, the termination, ending or cessation of an estate.
dictation Situation where a decision making body improperly allows itself to be directed by another person or body when making a decision.
directions hearing A hearing held before the full hearing so that the court or tribunal can give directions to the parties about the law, admissibility of evidence or questions of face and how the action should proceed.
disbursement Money paid out on behalf of another. In a solicitor’s bill, a disbursement may include payments made on lodging documents, and stamp duty, for example.
discharge To fulfil or be released from an obligation. A debt (q.v.) is discharged when it is paid.
disclosure Giving particular information to another party (q.v.) as required by a contract (q.v.) or legal process.
discoverable date The first day it is, or should have been, known that death or personal injury has occurred, that it was caused by the fault of the defendant, and that the injury was serious enough to justify bringing an action for damages (q.v.).
discovery A procedure by which documents relevant to a civil (q.v.) action are exchanged between the parties before the case comes on for hearing.
discretion Power to choose whether to do or not to do a certain thing, e.g. investigate a complaint.
distrain To seize property or goods belonging to a debtor (q.v.) to enforce payment of the debt (q.v.). A court order must be given before distraint can be undertaken by the Sheriff.
divisible property Property that can be taken by the trustee of a bankrupt (q.v.) to pay off debts (q.v.). It would include a house or a car but not furniture or household items. see protected property.
divorce The bringing of a marriage to an end. A marriage is legally divorced when a court issues a decree absolute (q.v.) where there has been an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. see decree absolute; decree nisi; marriage.
doctrine A framework, set of rules, procedural steps, or test, often established through precedent (q.v.) in the common law (q.v.), through which judgments can be determined in a given legal case. see common law; precedent.
doctrine of precedent see precedent.
domestic relationship A relationship where two people, of the same or opposite sex, are not married but are living or have lived together as a couple.
domicile The place where a person has their legal home – therefore, the place that determines the legal system relevant to that person.
double jeopardy A situation in which a person may be tried twice for the same offence (q.v.). There must be fresh and compelling evidence to warrant a retrial of a previously convicted or acquitted person. see convict; acquit.
duress Undue pressure placed on a person to force them to do something or refrain from doing something.
duty lawyer A lawyer at the court who provides free legal assistance to people appearing in court on criminal charges who have not yet had legal advice.
duty of care The obligation of a person to exercise reasonable care in the conduct of an activity. Breach of a duty of care that causes damage or loss to another may give rise to an action in tort (q.v.).
encumbrance A charge (q.v.) or liability, e.g. a mortgage. An encumbrance operates to limit the right of a person to deal with an item as they wish without also paying attention to the terms of the encumbrance.
endorse To write on the back of a document to indicate its authenticity or ownership
enduring power A power of attorney (q.v.) or guardianship that continues to have effect even if the donor ceases to be mentally competent. see guardian; power of attorney.
enforce To make people obey a law or the terms of an agreement, etc. Also, enforceability.
entrapment Action of a law enforcement officer that induces someone to commit an offence (q.v.) that they would not otherwise have committed.
EPA Victoria Environment Protection Authority Victoria.
equitable estoppel A type of estoppel (q.v.) that bars a person from adopting a position in court that contradicts their past statements or actions when that contradictory stance would be unfair to another person who relied on the original position.
equity Fairness. A system of legal rules developed by the Lord Chancellor and special courts in England to make the common law (q.v.) fairer. Also, a financial interest in property or goods.
estoppel A legal rule of evidence that prevents or stops a person from denying what they have previously said or done.
eviction The action of recovering land or property from an occupier or tenant by legal proceedings. The court would be asked to issue an ejectment order to remove the person.
evidence Anything the supports or disproves the truth or existence of a fact. Evidence can be oral, documentary or real (objects or things).
ex-nuptial Out of marriage; illegitimate. Used to describe a child born of the couple.
excess Amount of money the insured person has to pay towards the cost of settling a claim under the insurance contract (q.v.).
exclusion clause A clause in a contract (q.v.) that attempts to exclude, vary or avoid liability (q.v.).
executor The person whose duty it is to carry the provisions of a will into effect. Where that person is female, she may be called an executrix.
exhibit A document or thing shown to a witness (q.v.) when giving evidence (q.v.), produced for inspection to the court or referred to in an affidavit (q.v.).
express warranty An undertaking or statement made when offering goods for sale that would naturally encourage people to buy the goods. Breach of an express warranty can give rise to a right to sue for damages (q.v.) only.
expulsion Permanent exclusion of a student from a school; compare: suspension (q.v.). Also, used to describe the deportation (q.v.) of a person from a country.
extradition The process used when a person in one state or country has committed a crime in another state or country, and is to be taken into custody and sent for trial to the place where the offence (q.v.) allegedly occurred (verb: to extradite).
fair dealing Legitimate use or reproduction of part or all of copyright (q.v.) material by someone other than the copyright owner, for defined purposes.
false imprisonment Confinement of a person without legal permission.
family violence intervention order Court order under Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic) restraining a person from harmful or annoying conduct against a family member.
fiat Consent (q.v.) by the Attorney-General to start proceedings on behalf of someone else for review of an administrative act (q.v.).
FOI Online Victorian Government freedom of information website.
forensic procedure Examination of a crime scene or the body of a person suspected of having committed an offence (q.v.), with the taking of certain body samples. Samples may also be taken in a civil action (q.v.) for paternity reasons.
fraud Intentionally dishonest act, or lack of action, done to deceive someone and intended to bring some advantage over those who have been defrauded.
freedom of association The right to belong, or not belong, to an industrial association, such as a trade union, or other group, such as a religion.
freedom of information The right of any person to have access to documents held by government agencies, except those exempted by legislation (q.v.).
gazumped Accepting a higher offer on a property after having agreed on a purchase price with another buyer.
general damages Damages (q.v.) paid for expenses that are difficult to accurately assess. They include payments for pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of future income, embarrassment and discomfort. see damages; special damages.
grievance procedure A defined process for attempting to settle employment disputes within an organisation.
guardian A person who has the right and duty to protect another person, their property and rights. A plenary guardian has all the powers of a parent.
habeas corpus To have the body. A prerogative writ (q.v.) directed to a person who holds someone in custody commanding them to produce that person before a court.
hand-up brief Documents tendered by the prosecution in a committal hearing containing the charges and a summary of evidence (q.v.) on which the prosecution proposes to rely.
hospital order A court order, known as a hospital security order, by way of sentence, that a person be admitted to a mental hospital as an involuntary patient (q.v.).
identification material Material such as fingerprints, voice recordings, handwriting samples or photographs collected by police to help identify a person suspected of committing an offence (q.v.).
identification parade A police “line up” held so a witness (q.v.) to an offence (q.v.) can try to identify a suspect among other people of similar appearance.
implied terms Terms set out in legislation (q.v.) that are automatically part of a contract (q.v.), without having to be stated in the contract document.
in lieu In place of. So, time in lieu – agreement to allow time off instead of payment for overtime worked.
inadmissible Not allowed, i.e. not able to be used as evidence (q.v.) in a court action.
incorporated associations A not-for-profit community organisation with a separate legal identity and a structure regulated by legislation (q.v.).
incorporated documents Documents added to and considered part of planning schemes that regulate land use and development in a local area or municipality.
indemnity Compensation for a wrong done, or an expense or loss suffered as a result of the act or default of another. Verb: indemnify.
ITP (Independent Third Person) An impartial person required to support and assist a person with an intellectual disability, mental illness, brain injury or dementia during questioning by police.
indictable charge An accusation against a party (q.v.) who is suspected of having committed a serious crime that is generally tried before a judge and jury (q.v.). Examples include burglary or theft.
indictable offence A serious crime that is generally triable before a judge and jury (q.v.).
indictment The document that lists the accused’s name, the charges against the accused and the particulars of the offence (q.v.) relating to each in County or Supreme Court proceedings. Criminal proceedings commence upon its filing with the court.
industrial disease A disease linked to a particular industry or to doing a particular type of work.
infant The legal term for a person under 18, used particularly in family law, criminal law and civil actions (q.v.).
informant Generally someone who tells. A person who lays an information, i.e. a criminal charge (q.v.). Usually a police officer.
informed consent Agreement given for something to be done, after the procedure has been fully explained so that the person understands the procedure and their right to agree or refuse. see consent.
infringement notice Notice showing that an offence (q.v.), usually a driving offence, has been committed and the penalty to be paid. Can also be referred to as an “on-the-spot-fine”.
injunction A court order that directs someone either to do, or to refrain from doing, a particular thing. An injunction may be interim (operative until further order) or perpetual (continuing indefinitely).
insolvent Unable to pay debts (q.v.) in full.
instalment order A court order allowing or requiring a debtor (q.v.) to pay a judgment debt (q.v.) by regular specified payments.
ICO (intensive correction order) A non-custodial sentence (q.v.) with very strict conditions attached.
interested witness A witness (q.v.) to a will who, or whose spouse is given property or power under the terms of the will.
interim order A temporary court order allowing or preventing certain action, until a full hearing can make a decision on the matter and a final order is given.
interpleader summons An action by which a person who claims a right to property can bring the question before a court to determine ownership.
interrogation The asking of questions. In criminal cases, the questioning of suspects by police. In civil proceedings, the pre-hearing process, by which a party (q.v.) asks the other party a series of written questions, interrogatories, that are then required to be answered on oath.
intervention order Court order restraining a person from harmful or annoying conduct.
intestate One who dies without leaving a valid will. The deceased’s property is distributed to the nearest relatives in an order set by law.
invalid Not valid (q.v.); without legal effect.
involuntary patient A patient admitted to a mental hospital on a doctor’s recommendation and without the patient’s consent (q.v.).
irreconcilable difference Serious long-term disagreement between parties that cannot be overcome.
joint tenants Persons who own land in an undivided share in common; on the death of one owner their interest passes to the surviving owner(s), and cannot be disposed of by will or deed (q.v.), unlike tenants in common (q.v.).
judgment debt The amount awarded to be paid under a court order.
judicial review Review by a court of an administrative act (q.v.) on the basis of fault in the decision-making process. Compare: review on the merits.
jurisdiction The authority of a court to decide matters brought before it; the geographical limit within which a court order can be enforced.
juror A member of a jury (q.v.).
jury A panel of people selected from the general public to decide the guilt or innocence of people tried in criminal cases, or questions of fact and the amount to be awarded as damages (q.v.) in civil cases.
knowingly concerned Consciously and deliberately involved in committing an offence (q.v.).
lawyer-client costs Those costs that a lawyer can rightly charge their client. These would include fees, disbursements, postage and stamp duty.
lease A document of agreement between a landlord and a tenant, for rental of premises.
legally binding Able to be enforced by law.
legatee A person to whom property is bequeathed (q.v.) in a will.
legislation Statutory rules made either by parliaments or delegated bodies. see delegated legislation; statute.
lessee A person to whom property is leased.
lessor A person who leases property to another.
letter of demand A notice from a creditor that legal action will be taken if a debt (q.v.) is not paid.
letters of administration The document by which a person is empowered to manage the estate of a deceased who left no valid will.
liability To be responsible for something or to owe something to another under a legal responsibility, e.g. for breaking a contract (q.v.), committing a crime. It may be civil (q.v.) or criminal, and is enforced by civil or criminal courts.
libel Any defamatory written, drawn, painted or other permanent form of communication that has been published. see defamation; slander.
lien The right to hold a person’s property as security for the performance of an obligation e.g. the payment of money owing.
linked credit provider A credit provider that has an arrangement with a supplier of goods that people wanting to borrow money to buy those goods will be directed to that credit provider.
litigation Court proceedings in civil matters (q.v.). A litigant is one of the opposing parties (q.v.) in a civil proceeding.
litigation guardian An adult through whom a person under 18 or a person with an intellectual disability can act in court, and who is liable for the costs (q.v.) of such action if unsuccessful. see McKenzie Friend; next friend.
local laws Laws made and enforced by municipal councils within their boundaries. Previously called by-laws (q.v.). see delegated legislation.
long stop limitation period In personal injury cases, a period of 12 years, from the date of the act or omission that caused death or injury, within which court proceedings for damages (q.v.) must be issued.
malice A desire to cause harm to someone intentionally, particularly in relation to an action for defamation (q.v.).
mandamus A form of writ to commence an action for review of an administrative decision, such as a failure to perform a duty, in the Supreme Court.
mandatory Having to be strictly complied with. Mandatory reporting: obligation to report, e.g. cases of abuse of children, to authorities. Mandatory sentencing: automatic gaol term for certain offences (q.v.).
marriage The union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life. see divorce.
material Relevant or important; information that may influence a decision.
material form Any form of storage from which a copyright (q.v.) work can be reproduced.
McKenzie Friend The general term used to describe a person who sits with and assists a party in court proceedings if they do not have any legal representation and the court agrees. They assist by taking notes and offering quiet advice. see litigation guardian; next friend.
means test Assessment of income and assets to see if a person qualifies for financial assistance.
mediation Form of dispute resolution where an impartial third party (q.v.) helps communication and negotiations (q.v.) between the parties, but does not decide the dispute. Compare: arbitration (q.v.); conciliation (q.v.)
mens rea The state of mind required to constitute a particular crime; the mental element of an offence. Generally, every crime requires a mental element, which varies depending upon the nature of the crime. There may be more than one mental element of an offence and it may include intentions, recklessness, negligence, dishonesty, or malice.
mention date In Magistrates’ Court criminal matters, the first day on which a matter is listed at court. A case can only be heard on the mention day if it is a plea of guilty.
merchantable quality Reasonable quality, being in a good enough condition to be sold.
misleading and deceptive conduct Generally, an action or behaviour that leads another person into error, or that is unfair.
misrepresentation Making a false statement, either deliberately or unintentionally, to induce someone to do something they would otherwise not have done, e.g. buy something.
mitigation Circumstances that go towards reducing the damages (q.v.) or punishment that the court may order against a defendant or prisoner.
moral rights The rights of the creator, not the owner, of an artistic, dramatic or literary work or film to have their authorship acknowledged and to protect the integrity of the work or film.
mortgage A transfer of real property (land) or personal property (goods) as security for the repayment of money borrowed. The creditor to whom the mortgage is made is the mortgagee, the debtor (q.v.) who makes it is the mortgagor.
native title A form of communal title whereby land is not owned but is used by those who have rights over it. Describes traditional Aboriginal rights over land in Australia.
natural justice The rules and procedures against bias to be followed by a person or body with the power to settle disputes. Some rules of natural justice are to act fairly, without bias, and the right of all parties to be heard. see administrative law.
necessaries The basic requirements for a reasonable lifestyle given a persons station in life and specific requirements at the time of purchase, e.g. food, clothes, housing, etc.
negligence A tort (q.v.) involving the breach of a duty of care (q.v.) resulting in loss or damage to another person.
negotiation A dispute resolution procedure where both parties discuss the matter in dispute with one another with the aim of reaching a settlement through a consensus, compromise or agreement. see ADR (alternative dispute resolution); arbitration; conciliation; mediation.
next friend Any person who sues for, and on behalf of, another person. Typically this would be a parent acting for their child. see litigation guardian; McKenzie Friend.
nominal damages Damages (q.v.) of a small amount ordered where a right has been affected but no damage done.
nominee A person acting as a buyer on behalf of someone else.
non-custodial sentence A sentence for a criminal offence (q.v.) that does not involve imprisonment. The person would normally be sentenced to a form of rehabilitation. See custodial sentence/non-parole period The minimum term a prisoner must serve before being eligible for parole (q.v.).
notice of defence In civil proceedings, written notice that a defendant is required to give within a certain time stating that they intend to defend the action or cross-examine witnesses (q.v.).
nuisance Any inconvenience that interferes with normal physical human comfort. A nuisance may be either a private nuisance (q.v.) or public nuisance (q.v.).
oath A pledge that statements made are true, which is made with one’s hand on the bible, the New Testament, the Old Testament or another relevant religious text, such as the Koran. Witnesses (q.v.) in court are required to take an oath or make an affirmation (q.v.), if they do not want to swear on a religious text, before giving evidence (q.v.).
obiter dictum An opinion voiced by a Judge that has only incidental bearing on the case in question and is therefore not binding. Latin definition: said in passing.
offence A summary (minor) or indictable (serious) crime prohibited by state or commonwealth criminal law.
offender A person who commits an offence (q.v.).
ombudsman A public official appointed to investigate citizens’ complaints against the administrative agencies of government, or against members of a particular profession.
onus of proof The responsibility for proving allegations are true. Usually it is the Crown in criminal cases and the plaintiff in civil cases who hears the responsibility of proving there version of the law and facts to the required standard of proof before they can win the case.
order to review An appeal (q.v.) to a higher court if it is believed an error in law has been made.
Orders-in-Council Laws made by the Governor-in-Council, or at the federal level, by the Governor-General-in-Council. They are made under the authority of relevant Acts of Parliament and may also be known as regulations. see delegated legislation.
own motion Decision by a body to take action, e.g. to start an investigation, without a complaint having been made.
paramount Most important. An act of paramount force is one that cannot be made subject to another for its operation. see paramountcy principle.
paramountcy principle A shorthand expression for the rule in the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) that when the court makes certain decisions relating to a child, the best interests of the child must be regarded as the paramount consideration.
parenting orders Court orders made in relation to care of children, where agreement cannot be reached on a Parenting Plan (q.v.), and covering aspects such as residence, contact, maintenance and other issues.
Parenting Plan After a divorce where children of the couple are involved, a written agreement between the parties detailing the parenting arrangements for the children.
parole To free a prisoner on their own recognisance (q.v.) after serving a minimum term.
party/parties A person or organisation that participate in civil or criminal proceedings.
party-party costs The costs (q.v.) of a court action that a court can order to be paid by one party (q.v.) to the other party. see lawyer–client costs.
pecuniary Involving money. So, pecuniary loss – loss of an amount of money; pecuniary penalty – fine; pecuniary interest – financial interest in property.
perjury Lying under oath (q.v.) when questioned in a court proceeding or when making a sworn statement. A person found guilty of perjury may face imprisonment.
permanent care order A court order that a person who is not a child’s parent have long-term care and responsibility for the child.
perpetrator Person who committed the offence (q.v.).
perpetual succession Ownership of property remains with a group or organisation as a whole, not individual members of the group.
person responsible The person highest on a designated list who is available and able to make decisions on medical treatment for a patient who is unable to give informed consent (q.v.).
petition for bankruptcy Formal action by either a debtor (q.v.) or a creditor (q.v.) to file for bankruptcy (q.v.).
plaintiff Person who initiates legal proceedings against another in a civil dispute. see complainant.
police brief The evidence (q.v.) the police prosecutor relies on to prove the guilt of a person charged with a criminal offence (q.v.).
portability Right to carry the benefits of e.g. a pension, entitlement or protection order from one state, country or workplace to another.
power of attorney A formal written legal document by which one person (the donor) gives another (the donee) power to represent them or act in their place for certain purposes. see enduring power.
pre-hearing conference An informal, compulsory and confidential conference between the parties in a court action to try to reach a settlement or clarify any matters in dispute before the full hearing.
pre-sentence report A report, usually prepared by the Department of Human Services, for the court to consider before sentencing a young person.
precedent The doctrine by which courts are obliged to follow past decisions when hearing similar later cases. The precedent comes from the reasoning given by judges when delivering the decision in a case.
preliminary examination/hearing see committal pro-ceedings.
prerogative writ A writ issued by a higher court, such as the Supreme Court, to prevent lower courts and officials from exceeding their powers or to compel them to exercise their functions. e.g. habeas corpus (q.v.), mandamus (q.v.), certiorari (q.v.).
prescribed owners corporation A prescribed owners corporation is an owners corporation that levies annual fees in excess of $200,000 in a financial year; or an owners corporation that comprises more than 100 lots including any accessory lots such as a car park or storage area.
prima facie At first sight or on the face of it.
prima facie case A serious, opposed to a speculative, case which has a real possibility of ultimate success.
prima facie evidence The sufficiency of evidence upon which a person could be convicted of an offence or taking the evidence of the prosecution at its highest; evidence which is capable of proving the elements of the offence beyond reasonable doubt.
primary victim A person who is injured or dies as a direct result of an act of violence.
private nuisance A nuisance (q.v.) that you cause that interferes with a right of your neighbours.
private ruling An opinion given by the Australian Taxation Office to an individual taxpayer that is binding on the ATO with regard to that taxpayer.
privative clause A provision in a statute (q.v.) that seeks to prevent judicial review (q.v.) of decisions made under that statute.
probate The proving of a will. The acceptance by the Probate Division of the Supreme Court of Victoria that the deceased’s will is valid (q.v.) and the last will in existence.
probation A non-custodial sentencing order (q.v.) that involves good behaviour and supervision by a probation officer under defined reporting conditions for a specified period.
procure To encourage or persuade someone to commit an offence (q.v.).
professional indemnity insurance Insurance that provides cover for a person against claims for negligence arising out of the performance of their professional duties.
prohibited name A name that cannot be registered because it is obscene or offensive, impracticable or against the public interest.
prohibition An order to stop decision-making proceedings in a lower court or tribunal.
prohibition notice a notice banning a workplace activity that may risk safety or health of any person.
prosecution The party (q.v.) presenting evidence (q.v.) against the person accused of committing a crime.
protected property Property that cannot be seized for later sale in order to pay a debt (q.v.) that is owing. It would include furniture, tools of trade and household appliances. see divisible property.
protection application An application to a court by the Department of Human Services for intervention to protect the welfare of a child; may involve removal of the child from the family.
protection order A court order resulting from a protection application (q.v.) with various options for supervised care of a child.
provable debt A debt (q.v.) that must be accepted for proportional payment from available funds by the trustee of a bankrupt (q.v.), and from which the bankrupt is released on discharge from bankruptcy (q.v.).
proxy A person authorised to represent or act for another, or the use of such a person, e.g. voted by proxy.
prudential Of careful business management.
psychosurgery Brain surgery used as a way of treating mental disorders.
public nuisance A nuisance (q.v.) that interferes with a public right to do something.
public officer Person appointed to act on behalf of an incorporated association in any public dealings.
pursuant to According to, as directed by an Act or Regulation.
qualified privilege Limited protection against an action for defamation (q.v.) except where the person revealing the information did so out of malice (q.v.).
quantum The amount of money or compensation awarded as damages (q.v.).
quo warranto By what authority; a prerogative writ (q.v.) to remedy improper use of public office. Today the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, or an appeal to the Ombudsman (q.v.), would be the most likely avenue to use to have the authority of the decision-making body reviewed.
quorum The number of members of a body (e.g. a committee) required to be present to transact business legally.
real property Land or other real estate.
rebuttable Capable of being proved wrong in court.
recognisance A bond (q.v.) the object of which is to secure the performance of an act by the person bound by it, e.g. to be of good behaviour.
referral authority An authority or government department to which a planning permit must be referred for advice before it is granted.
regulations/rules Laws made by government departments and statutory bodies under authority granted by a relevant Act of parliament. see delegated legislation.
related victim A person with a close family or personal relationship to a primary victim (q.v.) who has died as a result of an act of violence.
remand in custody Order that a person who is charged with an offence (q.v.) be detained or imprisoned until the charge is heard by a court.
remission For prisoners – a reduction in the time to be served on a sentence of imprisonment.
renewable insurance policy Insurance provided for a particular period of time, of a kind that is usual to renew at the end of that period of time.
repairer’s lien The right of a repairer to hold repaired goods, e.g. a car, as security for payment.
repeal To abrogate (q.v.) or cancel legislation (q.v.) or a regulation (q.v.).
repossession The taking possession of goods by a creditor from a debtor (q.v.) who has breached a term of a credit contract (q.v.).
represented person A person whose financial affairs are controlled by an administrator such as for a “publicly represented person”, the State Trustees).
rescinded Revoked or cancelled.
rescission A revocation or stopping action, particularly of a contract (q.v.). Rescission is only allowed where restitution (q.v.) is possible (verb: to rescind).
residence order A parenting order (q.v.) stating with whom (usually which parent) a child is to live following separation or divorce.
respondent A person against whom a summons has been issued or an appeal (q.v.) brought.
responsible authority The body that has the power to grant or refuse permits, often a local council.
restitution Giving back what has been provided under a contract (q.v.), stolen, or seized to pay a debt (q.v.).
restraining order In family law, an order preventing a specified person from harassing or molesting the person applying for the order.
restraint of trade A commercial arrangement that prevents a business from freely buying or selling goods or services.
RCTO (restricted community treatment order) If treatment can be safely obtained in the community, patients on hospital orders can be put on a RCTO under section 15A of the MHA, which provides for release into the community on certain conditions.
retrospective Applying to circumstances existing before the date on which a law came into effect.
review on the merits A review, or rehearing, of a case in order to determine whether it was the correct decision to have been made on the basis of the facts presented.
revocation Cancelling the effect of a previous act, e.g. an earlier will.
sanction A penalty or punishment imposed on someone found guilty of an offence (q.v.).
secondary victim A person who is injured, physically or psychologically, as a direct result of witnessing an act of violence, or through being the parent or guardian of a primary victim aged under 18 (q.v.).
secured creditor A creditor (q.v.) who holds a mortgage, charge (q.v.) or lien (q.v.) on the property of the debtor (q.v.).
security interest An interest in or power over goods to secure payment of a debt (q.v.) or obligation.
self-incrimination The privilege against self-incrimination means the right, with certain limitations, not to do or say any-thing that might later be used as evidence (q.v.) against you.
self-representation Presenting your own case in court without a lawyer being there to assist you.
sentencing order A court order imposing a sentence of imprisonment on a guilty accused in a criminal case. see non-custodial sentence.
sequestration order An order that property be seized to satisfy a debt (q.v.).
serious indictable offence An indictable offence (q.v.) for which the penalty is imprisonment for five years or more, or life imprisonment.
serious injury In relation to transport injuries, a serious long-term impairment, disfigurement or loss of a body function, or severe long-term mental or behavioural disturbance, or loss of a foetus.
servitude 1. Being completely under the control of another, such as sexual servitude (slavery). 2. A nuisance (q.v.) that concerns a right over another person’s property, e.g. an easement. The owner of the easement may prohibit the owner of the land from building a fence or may claim a right to use the land as a thoroughfare.
sheriff An officer of the court responsible primarily for enforcement of court orders.
sine die To adjourn (q.v.), put off, postpone or suspend a court hearing to a later specified date. Can also be referred to as “stand down”, “stand over” or “postpone”.
show cause A reversed onus of proof (q.v.) that applies to applications for bail (q.v.) for some drug offences (q.v.).
slander Defamation (q.v.) that consists of spoken words or actions. see defamation; libel.
solvent Ability to pay all debts (q.v.) when they are due.
special damages Damages (q.v.) paid for expenses that are easy to determine and assess precisely. These damages (q.v.) would include payments for out-of-pocket expenses, e.g. medical costs, lost wages, rehabilitation costs. see damages; general damages.
specific performance Doing exactly what is stated in the terms of a contract (q.v.).
spent conviction A conviction for a minor criminal offence (q.v.), that after a certain time without re-offending, is considered to no longer exist.
stale (q.v.) A complaint that cannot be pursued because the complainant (q.v.) has delayed too long in taking action on a grievance.
stamp duty A state tax on transfers of ownership of assets or property, or on leases.
standard of proof The required level to which something must be proved in court. In criminal matters, the standard is “beyond reasonable doubt” (q.v.); in civil matters (q.v.), on the “balance of probabilities” (q.v.)
stand down see adjourn; sine die.
stand over see adjourn; sine die.
standing The right to take action in court or to be heard or represented in a case.
status quo The existing situation.
statute A law made by parliament, either state or Commonwealth. May also be known as an Act.
statute barred debts Debts (q.v.) for which the right to take action to recover payment is limited to a specified period, after which such action will not succeed in court.
statutory A law developed by parliament or delegated bodies in the form of an act, regulations (q.v.) or local laws (q.v.). It must be followed otherwise the relevant penalty may apply for any breach of the law.
statutory declaration A written statement of facts that the person making it signs and solemnly declares to be true before a person authorised to take declarations.
statutory defence A ground for defence included in a particular law that,, if argued successfully, would prevent a person from being found guilty of an offence (q.v.) under the law.
subpoena A writ that commands the appearance of a person or the production of specified documents in a court.
substantiation Providing evidence (q.v.) to prove that an event took place, e.g. an expense was incurred.
sue To take legal action in a civil case.
sufficiently interested party A person or company, not a party (q.v.) to a contract (q.v.), that has been involved in a transaction giving rise to a claim under the contract and can be named as a party to the claim.
summary offence A minor offence (q.v.) heard and decided in a Magistrates’ Court and not sent for trial before a judge and jury (q.v.).
summons A document that is issued by the court requiring the attendance of the person named in the summons at court on a specified date.
supervision order An order that the Children’s Court may impose where a young person is found to be in need of care and attention. A probation officer is appointed to supervise the young person. In addition, the court can impose conditions to be observed by the young person’s parents or persons with whom the young person is living. Also, a supervision order requires a person arguing substantial mental impairment in a serious criminal case to be admitted to a mental institution.
surety A person who binds themself to be answerable for another by paying an amount of money to the court. If there is a default, the surety will be liable and any money paid will be forfeited. The person who pays the money is also referred to as the surety or guarantor.
suspended sentence A sentence of imprisonment that is only served if the convicted person commits further offences (q.v.). May be partially or wholly suspended, or a combined custody and treatment order (q.v.).
suspension Exclusion of a student from school for a specified period as a disciplinary measure; less severe punishment than expulsion (q.v.).
sworn evidence Evidence (q.v.) given under oath (q.v.) or affirmation (q.v.).
taxable form Refers to a lawyer’s bill of costs (q.v.) that shows details of all the lawyer’s charges.
tenancy The relation between a landlord and a tenant for rented premises. see lease.
tenants in common Form of joint ownership, with two or more people occupying the whole of land in common. Each share has a separate title and can be disposed of by will. Compare with joint tenants (q.v.).
tender An offer by someone who owes money to pay the debt (q.v.), or part of it, to the person it is owed to. Also, a tender can be a quote submitted offering to construct a building or undertake renovations for a given price.
terms of reference The preset terms under which an inquiry is conducted or a decision is made.
testamentary capacity The legal and mental ability to draw up a valid will. The mental capacity to understand about property rights and family responsibilities is an important aspect of capacity in this regard.
testator A person who makes a will. A female testator is sometimes called a testatrix.
therapeutic privilege Right of doctors and other health professionals, in some circumstances, not to give a patient information that they believe might cause harm to the patient.
third party objector A person appealing against a decision to grant approval for developments that may produce discharge harmful to the environment.
tort A civil (q.v.) wrong; an act that causes harm, intentionally or otherwise, for which the remedy is an action for unliquidated (q.v.) damages (q.v.) or an injunction (q.v.)
trafficking In common law (q.v.), movement from source to end user in the course of trade. In criminal law the act of dealing with something illegal, such as humans. Also, drug trafficking has a much wider definition. see servitude.
treatment order A court order that a person suffering from mental illness be sent to a psychiatric hospital for treatment instead of to prison after conviction for an offence (q.v.).
trespass Wrongful entry onto or interference with property or with a person’s goods or property without the permission of the lawful owner or occupier.
tribunal A body set up to hear and decide disputes, usually with less formality and less strict rules of evidence (q.v.) than in a court proceeding.
trust Items held by one party known as the trustee for the benefit of another party referred to as the beneficiary. see trust account; trust deed.
trust account A special bank account where a lawyer deposits money held on behalf of other people, subject to strict accounting rules.
trust deed A document that sets out the rights and obli-gations of the trustee and beneficiaries (q.v.) of a trust (q.v.).
unconscionable conduct Action that takes unfair advantage of another party (q.v.) that is under a special disability (q.v.) in a contract (q.v.) or transaction. see special disability or disadvantage.
undertake To promise, in the course of legal proceedings, to do or refrain from doing an act. An undertaking is enforceable by attachment or like an injunction (q.v.).
undue influence Taking unfair or improper advantage of the weakness of another party (q.v.) to make them agree to do or refrain from doing something without the benefit of their free will.
unliquidated Undetermined, unascertained, e.g. when damages are left to a judge or jury (q.v.) to determine. Also, any debt (q.v.) that has not been paid or cleared by agreement.
valid Legally binding (q.v.) or effective.
vendor terms Contract (q.v.) of sale of property where the seller allows the buyer to pay over a set period. Ownership remains with the seller until the final payment is made.
vendor’s statement A document that must be provided to the buyer of a property by the seller that gives certain information about the property and matters affecting it. Can also be referred to as a Section 32 statement.
vexatious Legal action that is unnecessary or undertaken only to cause trouble or inconvenience for the other party (q.v.).
victim impact statement A statement to the court by the victim of a crime setting out details of injury, loss or damage caused by the crime.
visa Permit that allows either temporary or permanent stay in a country.
VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocols) A general term for a family of transmission technologies for delivery of voice communications over the Internet or other networks.
void Of no legal effect.
voidable An agreement, or other act, that either of the parties is entitled to rescind and until that happens has full legal effect. There are certain restrictions on the view of what is, and is not, voidable that require advice from a lawyer. see rescission.
voluntary That which is done by one’s own free will. see CTO (community treatment order); voluntary; hospital order.
voluntary patient A patient admitted to a mental with the patient’s consent (q.v.).
waive To give up a legal right or claim usually for another benefit or the benefit of another.
warrant A document issued by a court directing an officer to take certain action. May be a warrant of apprehension, directing that a person be arrested and brought before a court; a warrant of commitment, directing that a person be arrested and imprisoned; a warrant of distress, directing that a person’s goods be seized to satisfy a debt (q.v.); or a warrant of seizure and sale of real estate.
warranty A minor clause in a contract (q.v.), the remedy for breach of which is damages (q.v.) for any loss. Also, a promise to repair or replace defective goods.
waste Something that does lasting damage to land or alters the nature of the property.
witness A person who can provide direct information based on their own knowledge about a relevant fact in issue, and appears in court to do this or who provides a deposition setting out their evidence if they are not able to attend court.
writ A document in the monarch’s name and under the seal of the Crown that commands the person to whom it is addressed to do or refrain from doing some act.