In an emergency always call 999

Glossary of Criminal Justice Terms



Application to a higher court or authority for review of a decision made by a lower court or authority. This can be a review regarding the severity of sentence or conviction as a whole.



Absolute Discharge

The court takes no further action against an offender, but the offender’s discharge will appear on their criminal record.




Bail is a temporary release from the authority of the police or court which can be granted prior to or during a court hearing. Bail can be unconditional or conditional. If there is a risk that a suspect may commit another crime, fail to turn up at court, intimidate you or other witnesses, or obstruct the course of justice, the police or the court can impose conditions which restrict their liberty.

For example, there may be a condition not to go within a certain distance of your house, or there may be a curfew if the offence was committed at night. If the suspect breaches one of their conditions, he or she can be arrested and put before a magistrates’ court and remanded in custody.




Non-statutory warning given to adults (18+) by the police, following admission of guilt, as an alternative to prosecution, which though not a conviction forms part of a person’s criminal record.



Community Sentences

Community sentences are sentences of the court which deal with the offender in the community rather than in prison. These include community punishment, community rehabilitation orders and drug treatment and testing orders.



Curfew Order

A curfew order is similar to ‘house arrest’. People must stay indoors, usually at their home, for the curfew period. A tag, worn on the ankle or wrist, notifies monitoring services if the offender is absent during the curfew hours.




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).



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.



Home Detention Curfew (HDC)

A prisoner serving a sentence of between eight months and four years can be released up to 90 days early under strict curfew arrangements and wearing an electronic tag.



Intimidated Witnesses

An intimidated witness is anyone whose quality of evidence is likely to be effected through fear or distress around giving evidence in court. Remember if you are one of the rare witnesses that experience any issues as a result of providing a statement to the police you should contact the investigating officer or witness care officer. If it is an emergency you must always ring 999.

The police and courts can impose extra conditions on suspects and can provide extra support for witnesses in these cases. These are collectively known as ‘special measures’. All special measures are subject to the discretion of the court.



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. Examples of offending behaviour programmes are; substance-related offending, drink impaired drivers, aggression replacement therapy, sex offender treatment programme, integrated domestic abuse programme.



Plea and Direction

This is a stage in criminal proceedings where a plea – guilty or not guilty – is made by the defendant and the court refers the case to be listed at a later date for a future Crown Court hearing.




The status placed on the accused or defendant after being charged with committing a crime. A person can be remanded on bail (see bail) or in custody if there is a significant risk that he or she will commit another offence, fail to turn up at court, intimidate you or obstruct the course of justice. A court will decide whether to detain the accused in custody or permit bail after hearing recommendations from the police and CPS and any counter representation by the defendant’s solicitor.



Special Measures

Special measures are steps that can be taken to help vulnerable or intimidated witnesses provide their best evidence. They have been introduced to help witnesses.

If a police officer thinks you would qualify for special measures he or she will discuss this with you, and then with the CPS if the case is going to go to court.

The CPS will review this request which would take into account your views, and if these fit the criteria, will apply to the court for them to be put in place.

Special measures include:

  • Screens around the witness box - to prevent the witness from  seeing the defendant.
  • Evidence via live link - the witness can sit in a room outside the court room and give their evidence via a live television link. The two-way link allows the witness to see those in court and the court to view the witness. In some circumstances a temporary live link can be set up at locations away from the court, such as in a witness’s home, but this would only be in cases where a witness has great difficulty in moving around or other exceptional circumstances.
  • Video recorded evidence in chief - the witness’s main oral evidence is videotaped and played to the court.
  • Removal of wigs and gowns – by the judge, advocates and officials of the court.
  • Evidence given in private - when the public gallery is cleared.
  • Use of communication aids - for example an alphabet board.
  • Examination through an intermediary (a communication expert)
  • Video-recorded cross-examination – this is a new measure that is being considered for introduction.


Summary Hearing

Summary hearings are for less serious cases and are heard at the Magistrates’ Court by three magistrates rather than a jury.


Suspended Sentence

A custodial sentence which will not take effect unless there is a subsequent offence within a specified period.



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. The tag, worn on the ankle or wrist, notifies monitoring services if the offender is absent during the curfew hours.


Vulnerable Witnesses

A vulnerable witness is a person who is under 17-years-old or a person whose quality of evidence or ability to give evidence is likely to be diminished by reason of mental disorder, significant impairment of intelligence or social functioning or physical disability or disorder.

The investigating officer will be aware of your circumstances and after speaking with you will apply for the correct support. If you feel you need extra help you should always speak to the investigating officer or your witness care officer. The police and courts can impose extra conditions on suspects and can provide extra support for witnesses in these cases. Such measures are collectively known as ‘special measures’. All special measures are subject to the discretion of the court.


Young Offender Institution

There are distinct age categories, which have to be kept separate within a prison setting:

  • Juveniles (15-17yrs)
  • Young offenders (18 – 21yrs)
  • All those who are over 21yrs will be sentenced to adult imprisonment

Do you need a quick answer to a general question? Then we recommend you visit the national Ask The Police web site.