abduction
when someone who, without ‘legal authority’, takes and carries away a child under the age of 16 against the will of that child’s parent or guardian; compare with “kidnap”
absconding
the accused or a witness intentionally fails to appear at the trial
absolute discharge
a sentence in which the accused is found guilty, but does not gain a criminal record and is given no punishment or restrictions placed upon them
accelerated parole review
the near automatic and sped up full parole release of low-risk, non-violent offenders serving their first federal term, unless there is evidence to indicate a potential of violence
accessory
any person involved in a crime other than the main offenders who committed the crime, including the planning of the crime, helping with preparations for the commission of a crime
accomplice
any person who has been associated with, or helped the accused, in the commission of an crime
accountability
the requirement that an individual or group explain and accept responsibility for actions taken by them and by those under their supervision
accused
the defendant in a criminal trial
acquaintance rape
a sexual assault committed by an individual who the victim has just met, is friends with, dated a few times, or even someone to whom the victim is engaged to or married to
acquittal
the release of an accused person by a verdict of not guilty
act
a Bill which has passed three readings in the legislature and received Royal Assent and has thus become law
actus Reas
means literally ‘the criminal act’; This is the physical act of committing the criminal offense. This is one of two components necessary to commit a crime, for the other component see the definition to Mens Rea
adjournment
to put off or delay a case to another time or place
admissible evidence
evidence that is allowed in court
adversarial system
the characterization of our court process as a contest between the defence and the prosecution. In the adversarial system the burden is on the Crown to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, defendants are always presumed innocent until proven guilty and strict rules govern the admissibility of evidence – In contrast, some European countries use the inquisitorial system which is generally a more cooperative approach aimed at fact finding
affidavit
a written statement that is used in court as evidence and has been taken under oath or a promise to tell the truth
affirmation
a legally binding promise to tell the truth. This is used in court instead of an oath for people who are going to testify but are not religious.
aggravated sexual assault
see “sexual assault (level 3)
aggravated assault
aggravated assault is an assault which wounds, maims, disfigures or endangers the life of the victim
aggravating factors
usually in sentencing. Those factors that indicate a more severe sentence is called for or could be justified. For the opposite see “mitigating factors”
aiding and abetting
to intentionally assist another person in a crime
alias
a fake name used to disguise someone’s true identity or nickname
alibi
evidence that the accused was somewhere else when the crime was committed and therefore could not have committed the crime
allegation
an accusation made by a victim or witness that an offence occurred
alternative dispute resolution
a process that deal with legal disputes and problems outside of the formal court system, also referred to as Restorative Justice
alternative measures
programs in which the accused (usually young offenders) are diverted away from the formal court process for an ‘alternative’ punishment
antisocial personality disorder
a mental disorder characterized by an extensive pattern of disregard towards others and the continued violation of the rights of others
appeal
to apply to a higher courts authority for a review of the lower court’s decision. An appeal can be made by either the Crown or the defence for a wide variety of reasons. Not all those cases which are appealed are accepted to be heard
appearance notice
an order that tells the accused to go to court at a specific time to face charges that have been laid against them
appellant
the person or party who appeals a decision to a higher court
appellate court
a court in which an appeal from a lower court decision is brought
arraignment
the first step in a criminal trial; the accused hears the charges read by the court clerk and is asked to enter a plea
arrest
when the police put a person suspected of committing a crime into custody and lays criminal charges
arson
intentionally setting fire to property without legal authority
assault
when a person (without the permission of the victim) applies force intentionally, threatens force or approaches with a weapon; the level of least physical injury to the victim
assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm
assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm is an assault which is more than a brief or minor action; it is an assault which ‘interferes with the health or comfort of the person’
attempt
any act or action done with the intent to commit an offence against another person
attempted murder
intentionally trying to kill someone by any means, whether it is because of something that the person did (attacking them) or something that they failed to do (call the police for help);
attorney
see “lawyer
Attorney General of Canada
see “Minister of Justice
automatism
a defence where an accused denies criminal responsibility because he or she was in a robot-like state at the time the crime was committed and so was not in control of his or her behaviour. This is a temporary condition; it can be caused by sleepwalking, a severe blow to the head, extreme intoxication, some types of seizures, or even a sudden and extreme emotional shock
autopsy
the medical inspection of a dead body to determine the cause of death. Autopsies are conducted by the coroner or the coroner’s office.
bail
the practice of releasing an accused person prior to trial; bail may be granted either upon the person’s own recognizance (promise to attend at trial) or upon the payment of a certain amount of money to guarantee the person’s presence at trial
bail hearing
this is a hearing where the judge decides whether the accused will be held in custody before the criminal trial or released into the general public when a promise to appear or payment is made to the court; the Crown attorney tries to make a case that the accused should not be released while the accused has the onus or burden to show why the detention is not justified
barrister
a member of the legal profession chiefly concerned with presenting cases in a courtroom
bestiality
engaging in sexual acts with an animal
binding
to impose an obligation upon a judge to follow a previous decision; e.g. all decisions made by the Supreme Court of Canada must be followed by all of the lower courts
bodily harm
any hurt or injury to a person that interferes with the health or comfort of the person and that is more than merely short term or minor physical injury
breach of probation
when an offender, while on probation and without a reasonable excuse, fails or refuses to comply with a condition, or commits a new offence
burden of proof
responsibility to prove guilt (if the Crown bears the burden of proof) or to prove innocence (if the accused bears the burden of proof)