Absolute Discharge    The court takes no further action against an offender, but the offence and the discharge will appear on his criminal record
Acquisitive crime    Describes offences where the offender derives material gain from the crime.
Acquittal    At the end of a trial the court finds a suspect of an offence not guilty
Aggravated offence    Please see ‘Racially or religiously aggravated offence’
Amnesty    Usually used in reference to weapons when police ask people to hand in illegal weapons in the knowledge they will not be charged or prosecuted
Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO)    A civil order banning the subject from entering certain areas, associating with certain people, or doing certain things.
Appeal Court    The higher court to which cases are sent when either the defence or prosecution (if it is an appeal about the sentence) wish to challenge the result from a Magistrates or Crown Court case
Arrest    Someone suspected of an offence is lawfully detained by a constable.
Association    Prisoners’ leisure time spent outside of their cells
Asylum seeker    Any person seeking to be declared a refugee and live in this country after fleeing their own country due to the conditions there.
Attendance Centre Order    A court order which requires an offender (under 21)to undertake a structured programme of activities
Attorney General    Government Minister responsible for prosecutions and the Crown Prosecution Service


Bail Remand    A suspect who has been arrested or charged with an offence is released by the police or court on condition that they report back at a certain date and time. Sometimes the suspect has to keep to certain conditions, such as living in a particular place, or not going near witnesses.
Barrister    A lawyer who has been called to the bar and is qualified to appear in all courts.
British Crime Survey BCS    Annual Home Office survey of people’s experience of crime and feelings about it covering England and Wales


Canteen    Prison shop where inmates can purchase a limited range of goods using their pay or private cash sent in for them by family and friends.
Caution    Official warning given to offenders who admit to their guilt.
CICA    The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority- a government agency which pays damages to people that have been victims of violent crimes or those injured trying to apprehend criminals or prevent a crime.
Community Order    A court sentence to be served in the community. As part of the Community Order the court may order the offender to fulfill a number of requirements. These include drug or alcohol treatment and testing, electronic monitoring (tagging), curfew, living at a specified address, unpaid work, doing or refraining from doing certain things or entering certain places, or attending certain offending behaviour programmes. The new Community Order came into effect in April 2005.
Community Penalties alternatives to prison, non-custodial options, community punishment, community sentences    Sentences of the court which deal with the offender in the community rather than in prison. Since April 2005, all community penalties are delivered by the court through the Community Order.
Community safety units CSU    Local community safety units were set up to tackle crime and the fear of crime under the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act. They bring together police, local authority and other agencies to work together on specific problems such as hate crime and domestic violence.
Compensation    Money paid by the offender to compensate the victim for the physical or psychological damage caused by the offence.
Concurrent (Sentence)    Two or more sentences to be served at the same time. E.g. ‘a three year and a four year sentence to run concurrently’ amounts to a four year sentence since the first three years of both were served at the same time. Opposite of consecutively.
Conditional Discharge    No further action is taken against an offender unless they commit a further offence within a given period (no more than 3 years)
Consecutive (Sentence)    Two or more sentences imposed upon a defendant that are to run one after the other. Usually custodial, e.g. ‘two sentences of three years to run consecutively’ is equivalent to a six year sentence. Opposite of a concurrent sentence.
Conviction    When an offender has pleaded or been found guilty of an offence in a court he or she is said to have been convicted. The conviction then appears on the offender’s criminal record.
Crack Base, Rock    Cocaine hydrochloride concentrated by heating the drug in a solution of baking soda until the water evaporates. This type of base-cocaine makes a cracking sound when heated; hence the name ‘crack.’ Base-cocaine vaporises at a low temperature, so it can be easily inhaled via a heated pipe. May also be injected. Highly addictive.
Criminal Cases Review Commission    Public body responsible for investigating alleged miscarriages of justice.
Criminal responsibility    The age of criminal responsibility is when a young person is held responsible for their own behaviour and can be found guilty in a court.
Cross-examination    A witness in a court case is questioned about their evidence by the solicitor or barrister representing the opposing side, so a prosecution witness is cross-examined by the defendant’s lawyer, and a defence witness by the prosecution lawyer.
Crown Court    The Crown Court is the second tier in the English court system. A judge hears the cases, and trials are heard by a jury. The Crown Court deals with crime which is too serious to be heard by the magistrates’ court, and cases referred by the magistrates for sentence where their powers are not adequate.
Crown Prosecution Service CPS    The public prosecution service. The Crown Prosecution Service decides whether there is enough evidence to take a case to court, and whether it would be in the public interest. After the decision to prosecute has been taken the CPS employs the lawyers who represent the prosecution at court.
Curfew Order Tagging    The Court can order an offender to be at home between certain hours. This is usually monitored using an electronic tag attached to the offender’s ankle.
Custodial sentences prison sentence, bird, jail    Sentences where the offender is locked up in a prison, young offender institution or secure trainng centre.


Defendant    Person accused of a crime in court
Detention and Training Order (DTO)    The mechanism by which a youth court sentences children aged 12 to 17 years to custody.
Discharge Absolute or Conditional discharge    The offender is found guilty of the offence, and the conviction appears on his or her criminal record, but either no further action is taken at all(absolute discharge, or no further action is taken as long as the offender does not offend again in a certain period of time (conditional discharge).
Dispersal Prison    High security prison. There are a number of high security prisons and they are used to disperse the prisoner who need the highest levels of security around the country rather than keeping them all in one place.
District Judge    A legally qualified professional judge who sits in the magistrates court.
DNA    Deoxyribonucleic acid, molecules contained in all living matter containing unique identification information. Everyone’s DNA is slightly different, and so DNA found in body cells at crime scenes is increasingly being used as evidence in court.
Drug mule    Any person (although usually a young female) acting as a courier for illegal drugs.
Drug Treatment and Testing Order DTTO    A sentence for drug users who receive treatment for their drug use and have to give regular urine tests to make sure they are not using drugs
Due Process    The guidelines set by which criminal cases must be followed in order to ensure a fair trial


Electronic monitoring Tagging    An offender or person on bail, on a curfew order or Home Detention Curfew at the end of a prison sentence, has an electronic tag which alerts staff in a control centre if they leave the house during certain parts of the day when they are supposed to be home


Fine    A sentence of the court which involves the offender paying money to the court as a punishment. If the fine is too big to be paid immediately the offender can usually pay it in weekly or monthly instalments over a period of months up to a year.
Fixed Penalty Notice    An on-the-spot fine of up to £80 that can be given to any person aged 16 or older for engaging in certain types of behaviour.
Forensic Science Service    A Government owned company which supplies forensic science services to police forces in England & Wales.


Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH)    Serious injury inflicted by one person on another.


Hate crime    A crime committed because of the hatred by the offender of some characteristic of the victim – usually their race, religion,physical or learning disability, gender or sexual orientation.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons HMIP    Established in 1980 to inspect prisons working independently of the prison service and reporting directly to the Home Secretary.
Heroin Smack, brown, H, junk, skag    A highly addictive opiate usually taken by smoking, injecting or snorting through the nose.
Home Detention Curfew HDC, Tagging    A prisoner serving a sentence of between 8 months and 4 years can be released up to 90 days early under strict curfew arrangements and wearing an electronic tag.
Home Office    Government department responsible for all national issues such as crime and immigration


Independent Monitoring Board    Independent committees of volunteers appointed by the Home Secretary set up to monitor prison conditions and the treatment of prisoners. Every prison has an Independent Monitoring Board.
Indictable offence    Serious offence triable only in the Crown Court
Institutionalised    When someone has been in an institution, such as a prison, they may lose the ability to cope with aspects of normal day to day life because they are not used to making decisions for themselves. They are then described as institutionalised.
Intensive Supervision and Surveillance Programme ISSP    The most rigorous non-custodial intervention for persistent young offenders combining community-based surveillance with up to 25 hours of contact time per week.


Judge    The person who presides over the higher criminal courts – the Crown Court and Court of Appeal. Judges are trained lawyers who have been appointed after a distinguished career as a barrister or solicitor.


Kerb crawling    When someone drives slowly along the curb seeking sex from prostitutes.
Khat Chat, Kat, Qat    The fresh green shoots and leaves of the catha edulis plant found in East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula producing amphetamine like effects in those who chew them. Currently legal in the U.K., but illegal in the U.S.A. and Canada.


Lawyer    A general term used to describe barristers (who usually work in the Crown Court and Appeal Court) and solicitors.
Legislation    A general term for the Acts of Parliament which make up the laws of the land.
Licence On Licence    The period of time between the end of a custodial sentence and the end of the entire sentence in which the sentenced person is released into the community usually under certain conditions. This is known as being ‘on licence’.
Local Authority Secure Children’s Home (LASCH)    Used to house children aged 12 to 14 and ‘vulnerable’ boys aged 15 and 16. Usually small in size with 5 to 38 beds.
Local prison    A prison used for prisoners on remand and newly sentenced. Local prisons tend to be near to the courts and are often situated in towns and cities. Once they have been sentenced most prisoners are moved to training prisons to serve their sentences.


Magistrate    Someone who sits as part of a group of three and acts as a judge in the Magistrates court. Magistrates in England and Wales are volunteers who have been specially trained for the task and are unpaid apart from their expenses.
Magistrates Court    The Magistrates Court deals with most motoring offences and less serious crime. The judges in Magistrates Court are either a group of three lay (volunteer) magistrates or a District Judge who is a professional. The magistrates court has limits on its sentencing powers but can send cases to the Crown Court for sentence if necessary.
Miscarriage of Justice    A conviction shown to be unsafe due to new evidence in the case or evidence of an unfair trial or violation of rights of the accused.
Mother and Baby Unit    A designated separate living accommodation within a women’s prison, which enables mothers to have their children with them up to the age of 9 or 18 months whilst in prison.


No Further Action (NFA)    When the police decide not to pursue the offence/offender and to drop all charges.
Notifiable offence    Offence deemed serious enough to be recorded by the Police. Includes most indictable and triable-either-way offences


Offender    Someone who has been convicted of a crime.
Offending Behaviour Programme OBP    A programme of work undertaken with an offender which is designed to tackle the reasons or behaviour which leads to his or her offending. These programmes often involve work with groups of offenders, but some are one-to one. Many of them are based on cognitive behavioural therapy and they are accredited by a national accreditation board. Offending behaviour programmes currently available in prison and through the probation service include the Enhanced Thinking Skills programme (ETS), the Sex Offender Treatment Programme and The Drink Impaired Drivers Programme.
Open Prison    Prison with minimum security requirements for those offenders who are deemed not to pose a threat to the general public.
Opioids    Drugs that contain opium or are derived from or imitate opium; usually used as painkillers.


Perpetrator    see offender
Police Recorded Crime    A method of compiling crime statistics based upon a number, but not all, crimes reported to the police. Recorded crime figures tend to be significantly lower than actual crime rates.
Probation Community Order    Although people still talk of offenders ‘getting probation’, what that now means is that the offender receives a Community Order. The Community Order may include any number of a menu of thirteen requirements. These include drug or alcohol treatment and testing, electronic monitoring (tagging), curfew, living at a specified address, unpaid work, doing or refraining from doing certain things or entering certain places, or attending certain offending behaviour programmes. An offender is considered to have breached a Community Order if they fail to comply with a requirement or commit another offence while the Order is still in force. Courts may then impose more requirements or send the offender to prison.
Problematic drug use    Mostly regarded as use of opiates and/or of crack cocaine which is connected to problems like criminal behaviour, ill health and deprivation.
Prosecution    A case brought against a person; the lawyer(s) responsible for putting forward the case against a defendant.


Queen’s Counsel King’s Counsel when the monarch is male    A barrister appointed counsel to the Crown due to seniority and merit. Also known as a silk due to the silk gown worn by them.
Queen’s evidence    evidence given for the prosecution by an accomplice against his former criminal associates. ‘Turn queen’s evidence’.


Racially or religiously aggravated offence (such offences are defined in section 28 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998).    An offence made more serious (and carrying a higher sentence) if motivated by racist or religious hostility.
Re-offend Recidivism    When an offender commits a new crime after being convicted of a previous offence
Reasonable doubt    The standard of proof in criminal courts in the UK is that the case is proved ‘beyond reasonable doubt’.
Recidivism Reoffending    Reoffending by people who have previous convictions. The rate of recidivism is the rate of reoffending – for example the rate of recidivism for prisoners is 58%
Refugee    An asylum seeker who meets the terms set out under the 1951 U.N. Convention on the Status of Refugees.
Rehabilitation    Work to enable offenders to put crime behind them. This often involves tackling the specific reasons for the offending (eg. drug use, lack of understanding of victims feelings) as well as dealing with other factors which are known to help people lead crime free lives – education (basic skills), housing, employment, parenting skills.
Remand in custody Remanded    A defendant is imprisoned while awaiting trial.
Repeat victimisation    When certain people and places suffer repeated incidents of crime.
Resettlement    The reintegration and rehousing of an offender after release from custody.
Restorative justice    An approach which seeks to put right the harm caused by the offence. This may involve a meeting between the offender and victim, with a mediator, where the victim can tell the offender how the offence has affected them, and the offender can try to put things right.


Section 90/91    Section 90 and 91 of the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act (2014) gives the Crown Court power to sentence children aged 10 to 17 years to prison for serious offences (for which an adult would receive a sentence of 14 years or more).
Secure Training Centre    A secure institution for 12-14 year olds. Children in this age group are not sent to prison, but can go to an STC. This is usually for serious offences or when the young person is a persistent offender.
Self-harm    When someone deliberately hurts or injures themselves, often in response to extreme stress, depression, or a particular situation.
Soliciting    To approach or confront someone with an offer of sexual services in return for payment.
Solicitor    A lawyer who advises clients on matters of law, prepares cases, and may appear only in some courts.
Statement    A description of the events of a crime, or relating to a crime, given to the police during investigation.
Summary offence    Offence considered to be less serious, and triable only in the Magistrates Court
Suspect    A person being investigated in relation to a particular offence or offences.


Tagging Electronic Monitoring    An offender or person on bail, on a curfew order or Home Detention Curfew at the end of a prison sentence, has an electronic tag which alerts staff in a control centre if they leave the house during certain parts of the day when they are supposed to be home
Training prison    A prison to which convicted prisoners are sent to serve their sentences. Training courses and education are usually made available to prisoners there long enough to benefit.



Verdict    The verdict in a criminal trial is the point at which the Magistrates (in a Magistrates Court) or the jury (in a Crown Court) say whether they have found the defendent guilty or not guilty.
Victimisation    Being a victim. This term is usually used to describe the risk of being a victim of crime if someone belongs to a particular group (women, children, ethnic minorities, inhabitants of a particular area, etc) or in connection with repeat victimisation, where someone who has already been a victim is victimised again.
Victimology    The study of victims and factors relating to being a crime victim.
Visitors’ centre    A palce, usually outside a prison, where people who have come to visit relatives or friends in prison can obtain information and help, buy refreshments and wait for their visits. Not all prisons have visitors’ centres.


White collar crime    This term is usually used to describe crimes committed by professional people, often in relation to business or financial affairs. Examples include corrupt share transactions, tax evasion and fraud.



Young Offender Institution YOI    A prison for young people between the ages of 15 (16 for girls) and 21. Young offenders have to be kept separately from adults, and juveniles (under 18s) separate from 18-21s.
Youth Justice Board    An executive non-departmental public body responsible for overseeing the Youth Justice System.
Youth Offending Team (YOT)    There is a YOT in every local authority in England and Wales. They are made up of representatives from the police, Probation Service, social services, health, education, drugs and alcohol misuse and housing officers. The YOT is responsible for co-ordinating the work of youth justice services.


Zero tolerance    Crime fighting strategy developed in New York in the 1990s where all crimes, however minor, and anti-social behaviour is dealt with rigorously in order to combat a supposed culture of crime.