oath
a legally binding promise a witness makes to tell the truth with a religious wording (Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you god)
obstruction of justice
attempting to discourage a person from giving evidence through threats or bribery
offence
an act which is punishable under the criminal law; a crime
offender
a person who has been found guilty of a criminal offence, whether by pleading guilty or through a finding of guilt
official crime rate
see “crime rate
ombudsman
a public officer, appointed by and responsible to the legislature, who investigates and reports citizens’ complaints about actions by the government
Ontario Provincial Police (OPP)
enforces the Criminal Code and provincial statutes within areas of Ontario not served by a municipal police force (in some cases, there may be an overlapping of policing boundaries); also perform traffic duties on major provincial highways
onus
having the burden of proving something
open court
a court in which the public may attend; most cases take place in open court
open custody
a disposition (or sentence) that can be given to young offenders in which the youth is sent to a community residential centre, a group home, a childcare facility, a forest or wilderness camp, or any other similar facility for a certain time period. Limits and curfews are imposed on the youth yet they can still leave the custody to attend school or for appointments; compare with secure custody
organized crime
any crime committed by a group or association that consists of five or more persons and has, as its primary activities or main goal, the commission of an indictable offence
pain and suffering
pain is the immediately felt effects on the body as the result of some injury, while suffering is the distress felt as a result of the injury
pardon
a formal recognition applied for by offenders to have their criminal record sealed – to help them ‘erase a mistake of the past’. It is granted to individuals who have been found guilty of a criminal offence and have completed the sentence imposed by the court, and subsequently have shown themselves to be of good behaviour. Pardons are not automatic, do not erase the fact of conviction, declare that the conviction was wrong, or excuse the criminal behaviour – when a pardon is granted, the record of conviction is removed from the RCMP computers and kept separately
parole
release of an offender from imprisonment prior to the completion of a sentence on certain conditions to be observed by him or her; see also “day parole” and “full parole
parolee
an offender on parole
parole board
the committee of people who decide whether an offender should be released from prison earlier than their full sentence
parole eligibility date (PED)
the date upon which an inmate becomes eligible for full parole – For most inmates, it is reached after serving one-third of the sentence
parole hearing
investigations which determine whether or not an offender should be released on parole
parole officer
the person who supervises and monitors parolees between their release from prison and the conclusion of their sentence
parole violation
when an offender on parole, without a reasonable excuse, fails or refuses to comply with a condition, or commits a new offence
patricide
the killing of one’s own father
peace bond
A court ordered agreement between two parties that usually states that they will not attempt to contact each other directly or indirectly. There can be other conditions placed on this and they vary depending on each individual case. If a party violates this order they can be charged with violating a court order. This is much easier to obtain then a restraining order because this is an agreement for both parties and not restrictions placed on only one party.
peace officer
This is a term used for law enforcement officers like police officers, corrections officers, parole officers, etc. – does not apply to security guards except for some special cases.
pedophile
an individual who prefers to have sex with individuals legally considered children
penitentiary
a federal institution that houses offenders who have been convicted of a crime and sentenced to two or more years’ imprisonment
peremptory challenge
the right of both the defence counsel and the Crown attorney to dismiss a potential juror during the selection process without a specified reason (the lawyers are only allowed a certain number of peremptory challenges, and once they have been used up, they then must provide reasons for dismissing a juror)
perjury
intentionally making a false statement in court or telling a lie in court
physical injuries
the direct bodily harms resulting from an assault or the side effects of coping with the crime
plaintiff
the person who initiates a civil action
plea
a statement made by the accused at the arraignment as it relates to guilt; after a guilty plea, the case goes directly to sentencing; for those who plead not guilty, the case will be set for trial
plea bargaining or plea discussion
the unofficial process in which the Crown and the defence discuss the case or ‘bargain’, in an effort to resolve the case without a trial
police
A civil service created by the government that is responsible to respond to, prevent, and detect crime as well as maintain public safety
polygraph test
see “lie-detector test
position of trust/authority
the position of a person in relation to a child which includes parent; stepparent; adoptive parent; foster parent; legal guardian; common-law partner of child’s parent, stepparent, adoptive parent, foster parent, or legal guardian; grandparent; uncle; aunt; boarder in young person’s home; teacher, babysitter; group home worker; youth group worker; and employer
post-charge diversion
a measure used to divert young offenders (who have admitted responsibility) away from the traditional court system by referring them to an alternative measures program (e.g. volunteer work, community service, restitution, victim-offender mediation, family group conferencing) after they have been formally charged with an offence; compare with pre-charge diversion
post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
a severe psychological reaction to intensely traumatic events, including assault, rape, natural disasters, and wartime combat; victims may re-experience the traumatic event in recollections or in nightmares, seem detached from the rest of the world, and suffer physical problems and intense irritability; generally appearing shortly after the trauma, the symptoms usually disappear within six months, but some may last for years
pre-charge diversion
a measure used to divert young offenders (who have admitted responsibility) away from the traditional court system by referring them to an alternative measures program (e.g. volunteer work, community service, restitution, victim-offender mediation, family group conferencing) before they have been formally charged with an offence; compare with post-charge diversion
pre-disposition report (PDR)
a pre-sentence report compiled by a probation officer or youth worker in relation to a young offender. Items usually evaluated include the person’s age, the amount of remorse for the crime committed and future plans of the person
pre-sentence report (PSR)
at conviction, a judge may ask a probation officer or correctional worker to write a PSR to aid in sentencing. The officer interviews the offender and members of his or her family to compile a history of the offender and may also seek information from the victim about the offence and its impact
precedent
previous court decisions which guide other judges in making decisions in similar cases; sometimes called ‘judge-made laws’ or ‘case law’
preliminary hearing
a hearing at which the Crown must demonstrate that there is enough evidence to justify the time and expense of a full trial; also called a preliminary inquiry or preliminary trial
premeditation
considering, planning and contemplating a crime before committing it
presumption of innocence
a defendant is considered innocent of the charge(s) until either convicted or acquitted -Under the Charter, all defendants are considered innocent until proven guilty
prevalence
the number of crimes or criminals in a certain area over a given time period (number of crimes or criminals/population); compare with incidence
preventive detention
detention in a penitentiary for an indeterminate period of time (technically, could be forever)
principal offender
the person having the most active part in the commission of an offence
prison
generally includes any federal or provincial institution that houses offenders; however, technically they are provincial institutions that house offenders who have been convicted of a crime and sentenced to less than two years imprisonment
private security
manned private security includes security guards, watchmen, private investigators, alarm respondents, and security consultants; the hardware sector of private security includes alarm systems, weapons, electronic monitoring equipment, lie-detectors, armoured vehicles and guard dogs
probation officer (PO)
the person to whom the probationer must periodically report to; they have two essential roles:

  • assisting and supporting the offender, and
  • monitoring the offender to ensure that they follow the conditions of the probation order
probation order
the most frequently used sentence in our criminal justice system in which the offender is released into the community under the supervision of a probation officer and must follow certain conditions such as being of good behaviour, abstaining from alcohol, not contacting the victim, etc
probationer
an offender on probation
proceeds of crime
any property, money, or goods accumulated as a result of a crime
profiling
a technique used by police experts to create a description of a suspected offender or future victims based upon information at the scene of previous crimes
prohibition order
sentences which ban the offender from owning a certain object or performing a certain activity for either a certain time period or for life; e.g. prohibition from possessing a firearm, prohibition from working with children
prosecution
the act of pursuing a criminal trial by the Crown or a citizen in the case of a private prosecution
prosecutor
see “Crown Attorney
protective custody
a highly controlled, segregated area of correctional institutions where inmates who are considered to be at risk in the general prison population are placed
provincial/territorial courts
the lowest level of court to hear criminal cases; provincial court judges deal with arraignment, summary trials, and preliminary hearings and they dispose of provincial offences; this level of the criminal courts deals with the greatest number of cases; see also superior courts, provincial appellate courts, federal courts
provincial appellate courts
the next level of court after the superior courts are the provincial appellate courts; appeals of provincial court decisions may have to be heard first in a superior court before advancing to this level, but not always. Appeals from the superior courts go directly here; at this level, commonly referred to as the Court of Appeal, at least three judges will hear each appeal; see also provincial/territorial courts, superior courts, federal courts
provincial inmate/offender
an offender serving a prison sentence of less than 2 years
provocation
acts or words that trigger an irrational response; a partial defence which can reduce an offence from murder to manslaughter or eliminate charges of assault and have it declared as a consensual fight rather than a unprovoked attack
psychiatric assessment
a description of the accused’s state of mind, prepared by a mental health professional, which the judge uses to help decide if the accused can stand trial
psychological abuse
see “emotional abuse
psychopath
A term used to describe a person who suffers from a mental disorder which has violent tendencies and strange social behaviour
psychopathy
a mental disorder characterized by ‘egocentricity; impulsivity; irresponsibility; shallow emotions; lack of empathy, guilt or remorse; pathological lying; manipulative tendencies; and the persistent violation of social norms and expectations’
psychology
The scientific study of the mind, how it works (mentally and medically), and how it effects behaviour.