Glossary

Accused

A person charged with a criminal offence or offences who has not yet been found guilty or pleaded guilty.

Brief of evidence

The material relied on by the prosecution in a criminal case.

Child

In this report, a person who is under 18 years of age.

Children’s Court

A specialist court that hears and determines cases involving children and young people. In this report, the term ‘lower courts’ may be used to refer to both the Children’s Court and the Magistrates’ Court.

Committal

An order of a magistrate that requires an accused to appear in a higher court for sentence or trial.

Committal mention

A case management hearing in a committal proceeding.

Committal proceedings

The indictable pre-trial procedures conducted in the lower courts that are outlined in Chapter 4 of the Criminal Procedure Act 2009 (Vic).

Complainant

A term used in criminal cases to refer to a victim of an alleged crime.

County Court

The County Court sits above the Magistrates’ Court and below the Supreme Court in the Victorian court hierarchy. In its criminal jurisdiction it hears indictable criminal cases, except for the most serious. Criminal trials in this court are heard by a judge and jury.

Cross-examination

When a witness for one party (for example the prosecution) is asked questions in court by the lawyer for the other party (for example the accused) to test the evidence the witness has already given. See also evidence-in-chief.

Committal test

The standard applied by a magistrate to determine if the evidence in a case is sufficient to order that the accused be tried or sentenced in a higher court. In the Criminal Procedure Act 2009 (Vic), the committal test is referred to as the ‘committal determination’. In this report, the ‘committal test’ may also be used to refer to a magistrate’s application of the test for committal.

Defence

The accused person’s case and the lawyers who represent them.

Defendant

A person who is charged with a criminal offence—the accused.

Depositions

The transcript of evidence given in a committal proceeding and any statements admitted in evidence in a committal proceeding in accordance with chapter 4 of the Criminal Procedure Act 2009 (Vic).

Direct indictment

An indictment filed by the Director of Public Prosecutions against an accused where no committal has been held; or the accused has been discharged at committal; or a discontinuance has been filed. Known in some jurisdictions as an ex officio indictment.

Directions hearing

A case management hearing in a higher court.

Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP)

The official who makes decisions about whether to prosecute serious criminal matters and is independent of government. The Victorian Director of Public Prosecutions is responsible for prosecuting indictable criminal offences under Victorian law. The Office of Public Prosecutions conducts these prosecutions on behalf of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

In this report DPP may be used inclusively to reference other prosecuting agencies such as the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.

Director’s Committee

Established under the Public Prosecutions Act 1994 (Vic), the Director’s Committee consists of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Chief Crown Prosecutor and the Solicitor for Public Prosecutions.

Discharge

In relation to committal proceedings, where a magistrate determines there is insufficient evidence to support a conviction for an indictable offence and orders that the accused be discharged.

Disclosure

Providing information or material to a party as required by law.

Discontinue

Where the Director of Public Prosecutions determines not to proceed with charges that have been brought before a court.

Ex officio indictment

See Direct indictment.

Evidence-in-chief

The evidence given by a witness for the party who called the witness.

Hand-up brief

A brief of evidence used in committal proceedings in Victoria.

Higher court

In Victoria, the County Court or the Supreme Court.

Indictable offence

A serious criminal offence that is usually heard in a higher court before a judge and jury.

Indictable offence triable summarily

A less serious indictable offence that can be heard before a magistrate.

Indictment

A formal written accusation charging a person with an indictable offence that is to be tried in a higher court.

Informant

The person who commences a criminal proceeding in the Magistrates’ Court. Often a member of Victoria Police, but sometimes a representative from another investigating agency such as WorkSafe Victoria.

Investigating agency

The agency investigating a criminal offence. This is often Victoria Police but can also be other agencies such as WorkSafe Victoria.

Leave

Permission given by a judge or magistrate to a party during a legal proceeding to take a particular course of action.

Legal Aid

Legal aid is legal assistance provided by the government under the Legal Aid Act 1978 (Vic) to people who cannot afford it themselves. Victoria Legal Aid is an organisation that provides legal information, advice and representation to people in accordance with the Legal Aid Act 1978 (Vic).

Local Court

The equivalent of the Magistrates’ Court in some Australian jurisdictions.

Lower Court

In Victoria, the Children’s Court and the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria.

Magistrate

The person who presides over a case in the Magistrates’ Court or in the Children’s Court.

Magistrates’ Court

A lower court that hears less serious matters without a jury. It is responsible for hearing and determining summary offences and some indictable offences triable summarily, and for conducting committal proceedings.

In this report, the term ‘lower courts’ may be used to refer to both the Children’s Court and the Magistrates’ Court.

Mention

A brief court hearing to deal with procedural matters.

Offender

A person who has been found guilty or has pleaded guilty to a criminal offence. Until this happens, a person is known as an accused.

Office of Public Prosecutions (OPP)

An independent statutory authority that institutes, prepares and conducts criminal prosecutions on behalf of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Order

A binding direction by a court or tribunal in a legal proceeding.

Parties

The prosecution and the accused in a criminal proceeding.

Plea

When the accused person tells the court whether he or she is guilty or not guilty of the charge.

Plea brief

A brief of evidence used when the accused indicates an intention to plead guilty before the hand-up brief has been served.

Plea hearing

The hearing in which the prosecution and defence present information that they want the court to take into account when deciding the sentence in the case.

Prosecution

In indictable cases, the lawyers, individual (for example, the Director of Public Prosecutions) or statutory authority (for example, the Office of Public Prosecutions) conducting a criminal case before the court on behalf of the investigating agency. A ‘prosecution’ may also refer to the case against a person accused of a criminal offence.

Sentence

The penalty given to an offender by a court.

Sentencing hearing

See plea hearing.

Summary offence

A less serious criminal offence that may be dealt with by a magistrate.

Supreme Court

The highest court in Victoria that deals with the most serious criminal offences. Criminal trials in this court are heard by a judge and jury.

Victim

In criminal proceedings, a person who has suffered harm as a result of the action of an offender. In this report the term applies to a person alleged by the prosecution to be a victim prior to determination of the offender’s guilt as well as a person who has suffered due to an offence for which the offender has been found guilty.

Withdraw

Where a charge against an accused is no longer prosecuted.

Witness

A person who gives evidence in a case.