Legal Terms

abduction

Unlawful removal of a person (often a child) from their home environment.

absolute privilege

The protection given to parliamentary and court proceedings that any information produced or revealed in them cannot give rise to an action for defamation.

See defamation.

acceptable quality

See also merchantable quality.

accessory

A person who assists in the commission of a crime, as distinguished from the principal offender.

accused

Person charged with a criminal offence.

act of bankruptcy

An action of a debtor that shows an inability to pay their creditors.

See debtor.

See creditor.

adjourn

To suspend a court hearing to a future specified day or sine die. Noun: adjournment.

See sine die.

administrative act

A decision, or refusal to make a decision, by an officer of a government department and which is subject to review either internally or externally by the courts.

administrator

A person appointed to manage the estate of a person who has died without leaving a will, or the financial affairs of a person who lacks legal capacity. Fem: administratrix.

See capacity.

affidavit

A written statement sworn on oath or affirmed before a person with authority to administer it, such as a justice of the Peace. The person who swears or affirms the affidavit is called the deponent. Affidavits must contain only facts which the deponent can prove. Generally, affidavits are required in court proceedings in place of statutory declarations.  

See affirmation.

See oath.

See statutory declaration.

See deponent.

affirmation

A pledge that statements made are true which may be made in place of an oath if an oath is contrary to a person's religious belief or if the person has no religious belief. It can be used where a person is giving evidence in a court or where a declaration or affidavit is being made.

See oath.

aggravating factors

Circumstances that make an offence much more serious.

alibi

Defence to a criminal charge on the grounds that the accused was somewhere other than the scene of a crime when that crime was committed.

alleged

Said to be the case, but not yet proved.

ADR (alternative dispute resolution)

Process for resolving disputes outside the court system, e.g. through mediation (q.v.) or negotiation (q.v.).

amendment

A change to an Act or other law by a later Act.

amenity

Features, benefits or advantages of the local environment that people currently enjoy.

annuity

A sum of money payable yearly.

annul

To declare void in law. For example, when a marriage is annulled, the court says that it never was a marriage in law.

See void.

appeal

To take a case to a higher court in order to challenge a decision. The person or organisation who appeals is the appellant.

appellant

A person who appeals a decision of a court or tribunal.

See appeal.

arbitration

A procedure for resolving disputes which involves less formality than a court hearing.

arrears

Payment that is overdue or made after the date when it fell due.

arrest

To apprehend or take into custody a person suspected of having committed a crime.

assignment

Legal transfer of a right or an interest in property from the owner to another person.

at large

(An animal) not securely confined to the owner's property.

attestation clause

A witnessing clause, for example, in a will. The attestation clause states that the witnesses saw the testator sign and that they signed the will in the presence of the testator and each other.

See testator.

bail

Bail enables an accused person to be released from custody in between the date of being charged and the eventual hearing of the court case. The accused may be required to promise (known as entering into a recognisance) to appear in court and meet other conditions, inlcuding that a guarantor (surety) be provided.

See recognisance.

See surety.

bail authority

A person who has authority to grant or refuse bail such as police, Magistrates, District and Supreme Court Judges, as authorised by the Bail Act 1985.

balance of probabilities

The standard of proof required in civil law cases, i.e. it is more probable than not that what the person says happened is true. (In criminal cases, the standard is proof beyond reasonable doubt.)

See standard of proof.

bankruptcy

When the financial affairs of an individual are taken over by a trustee and their property distributed amongst their creditors, following the individual becoming unable to pay his or her debts.

beneficiary

A person who is left something in a will, or a person for whose benefit property is held by trustees or executors.

bequeath

To dispose of personal property in a will, to make a bequest.

beyond reasonable doubt

The standard of proof (q.v.) required in criminal cases.

bias

A pre-existing attitude or opinion that favours one side over another in a dispute.

bill of sale

A document which enables one person to possess and use goods (the possessor) while another has legal ownership (usually a person or company that has lent money for the purchase of the goods). See: goods mortgage.

bond

(1) A deed (q.v.) in which a person undertakes to do or refrain from doing certain things, e.g. good behaviour bond. (2) Money paid to a landlord by a tenant at the start of a tenancy as security in case of future damage to premises or non-payment of rent.

breach of contract

Failure by one of the parties to a contract (q.v.) to satisfactorily perform the service or action agreed to in the contract.

breach of statutory duty

(Evidence of negligence (q.v.) through) breaking a law.

burden of proof

The obligation to prove what is alleged. In criminal cases, this obligation rests on the prosecution, which must prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. In civil cases, it rests on the plaintiff, who must prove his or her case on the balance of probabilities. Sometimes, however, this burden shifts, for example, where the defendant raises particular defences.

business purpose declaration

A statement signed by a debtor before entering a credit contract that the credit is for business, not domestic, purposes.

by-laws

Former name of local laws (q.v.).

capacity

The ability to understand and give legal consent to an action or arrangement.

care and protection order

A court order resulting from a care and protection application with various options for supervised care of a child.

See care and protection application.

case law

The law based on decisions made by judges in previous case. See: common law.

See common law.

caveat

A notice given to an appropriate officer ordering him or her not to take a certain step until the person giving the notice (the caveator) has had an opportunity to object (e.g. to a transfer of land).

certificate of title

A document prepared by the Titles Office which shows details of land registered under the Torrens system, particulars of the location, encumbrances (q.v.) and owners.

certiorari

A form of writ (q.v.) by which actions for review of administrative decisions are commenced in the Supreme Court.

chattel

Any property that is not freehold land. It may be a leasehold (called a chattel real) or a movable article of property (chattel personal).

child maintenance order

A parenting order (q.v.) setting out arrangements for the financial support of a child after marriage breakdown.

citizen's arrest

An arrest by any person who is not a police officer or who does not have a warrant (q.v.) to arrest.

civil law

Law which is not criminal or church law (usually the former), it may mean law based on the Roman system. Throughout this book, civil law means non-criminal law.

clear title

Outright ownership, without any debts or charges on the property.

code of practice

A set of guidelines for fair practice developed for a specific industry or occupation. May be voluntary or statutory (q.v.).

codicil

A document signed by a willmaker that alters or adds to an existing will.

cohabitation

Living together as a couple.

committal proceedings

Where a Magistrates' Court hears evidence on an indictable charge (q.v.) and decides whether the accused should be sent for trial (also called a preliminary examination).

common law

The part of English law traditionally based on common custom and being unwritten. Law which is not equity (q.v.), statute (q.v.), ecclesiastical (church), or civil (i.e. Roman).

CTO (community treatment order)

Treatment of an involuntary patient (q.v.) by a medical practitioner in the community, not in a mental hospital.

Community Visitor

A person with authority to monitor and report on the performance of mental health services and the welfare of their patients.

complainant

A person who begins a prosecution against another in the Magistrates' Court, a plaintiff.

comprehensive insurance

Insurance that covers claims against the insured by other persons for damage to their property as well as covering the insured for damage to his or her own property.

compulsory third party insurance

Insurance paid with vehicle registration to insure against damage caused to other people, limited to personal injuries suffered by them.

conciliation

Process of resolving disputes which involves negotiations between parties, assisted by a conciliator. Conciliation aims for mutual agreement rather than a decision in favour of one side.

confidentiality

Protection against disclosure to an outside person of information revealed in a professional relationship, e.g. doctor-patient.

conflict of interest

A situation where a person's own interests, or a duty towards someone else, may affect the way they carry out a duty towards others.

consent

Agreement to an action or arrangement. See also: informed consent.

consumer guarantee

Regime of automatic rights under the Australian Consumer Law cf Consumers: Contracts and Credit

consumer lease

A contract (q.v.) for hire of goods by a person for a specified period and rental.

contact order

An order stating the kind and frequency of contact between a child and another person - usually the parent with whom the child is not living. Now called a parenting order (q.v.).

contempt of court

The failure to obey a court order or an act which shows a disregard for the authority of the court or judge. A person in contempt may face imprisonment.

contract note

A simplified form of preliminary contract (q.v.) used in the sale of real estate.

contravene

To breach, neglect or refuse to comply with a particular requirement or condition.

contributory negligence

A defence in an action for damages for injuries arising from the defendant's negligence. The defendant attempts to prove that the plaintiff's own negligence caused or contributed to the injuries suffered.

cooling off period

The time during which a purchaser can withdraw from a contract after signing.

copyright

The rights belonging to the owner or licensee of literary, artistic and dramatic works, films and sound recordings, to reproduce, perform or otherwise deal with these works.

corporation

A company; a business with Limited (Ltd) or Proprietary Limited (Pty Ltd) after its name.

counterclaim

A claim made by a defendant against the plaintiff asserting an independent cause of action. For example, A sues B, claiming $20 for an unpaid dry cleaning account but B counterclaims $90 for alleged damage to the jacket when cleaned.

covenant

An agreement creating an obligation contained in a deed (q.v.) or land title. A covenant may serve the same purpose as a bond (q.v.).

cover note

a document provided by an insurer as evidence of temporary insurance cover before a formal policy is issued.

credit contract

A contract (q.v.) for deferred payment of a debt owed by one person or organisation to another.

creditor

A person or company to whom a debt is owed.

cross examination

The questioning of a witness by the opposing party (q.v.) in a court case.

custody

Control; e.g. when arrested and not free to leave; formerly, care and control of a child.

de facto

In reality, e.g. a de facto wife is one in reality but not in law.

See domestic partnership.

debt agreement

An arrangement for dealing with unpaid debts that is less formal and intrusive than bankruptcy (q.v.).

debtor

A person who owes a debt.

declaratory order

A formal statement by a court to clarify a specific point of law for interested parties.

deed

A written document that is signed, sealed and delivered. "Sealing" (attaching a seal with wax) is no longer necessary. "Delivering" is traditionally completed when the person signing the document says "I deliver this as my act and deed".

deemed

To be treated as.

defamation

Publication of false and derogatory statements about another person, without any justification recognised by law. See also: slander, libel.

See slander.

See libel.

defence

1. The formal contesting of the plaintiff's statement of claim or the prosecution's case by the defendant or accused; 2. A legally recognised justification or excuse e.g. provocation as a defence to murder. 3. Collective term used to refer to the defendant and the legal representatives of the defendant.

defendant

A person who has been charged with a criminal offence, or whom a civil action has been brought against.

delegated legislation

See: Regulations.

delegation

Allowing lower ranking officials to make decisions on behalf of the person responsible by law for making the decision. Also: to delegate.

deponent

Person who swears an affidavit (q.v.).

deportation

Expulsion from a country of a resident non-citizen who has committed a serious crime or is considered a threat to national security.

depositions

The record of evidence given in committal proceedings (q.v.).

determination

Decision.

dictation

Situation where a decision making body improperly allows itself to be directed by another person or body when making a decision.

directions hearing

A hearing held before the full hearing so that the court or tribunal can give directions to the parties about how the action should proceed.

directory

(A provision) that does not have to be strictly complied with; not mandatory (q.v.).

disbursement

Money paid out on behalf of another. In a solicitor's bill, a disbursement may include payments made on lodging documents, and stamp duty, for example.

discharge

To fulfil or be released from an obligation. A debt is discharged when it is paid.

disclosure

Giving particular information to another party as required by a contract or legal process.

discovery

A procedure by which documents relevant to a civil (q.v.) action are exchanged between the parties before the case comes on for hearing.

discretion

Power to choose whether to do or not to do a certain thing, e.g. investigate a complaint.

doctrine of precedent

See: precedent.

domestic partnership

A relationship where two people (of the same or opposite sex) are not married but are living or have lived together as a couple.

double jeopardy

A situation in which a person may be convicted twice for the same offence.

duress

Undue pressure placed on a person to force him or her to do something.

duty lawyer

A lawyer at the court who provides free legal assistance to people appearing in court on criminal charges who have not yet had legal advice.

duty of care

The obligation of a person to exercise reasonable care in the conduct of an activity. Breach of a duty of care which causes damage or loss to another may give rise to an action in tort (q.v.).

easement

The right or freedom to do something or the right to prevent someone else from doing something over the real property (q.v.) of another.

easements

Rights or freedoms to do something or rights to prevent someone else from doing something over the real property of another

See real property.

encumbrance

Charges or liabilities e.g. mortgages

encumbrances

A charge (q.v.) or liability, e.g. a mortgage.

enduring power

A power of attorney (q.v.) or guardianship which continues to have effect even if the donor ceases to be mentally competent.

enforce

To make people obey (a law, the terms of an agreement, etc). Also: enforceability.

equity

Fairness. A system of legal rules developed by the Lord Chancellor and special courts in England to make the common law (q.v.) fairer. Also: a financial interest in property or goods.

eviction

The action of recovering land or property from an occupier or tenant by legal proceedings.

ex parte

Of the one part. An application made ex parte is made by one party only - or may be made by an interested person who is not a party.

ex-nuptial

Out of marriage; illegitimate.

examination

Formal interrogation in court of a person bound by oath or affirmation to answer truthfully.

exclusion clause

A clause in a contract which attempts to exclude or avoid liability (q.v.).

executor

The person whose duty it is to carry the provisions of a will into effect. Where that person is female, she may be called an executrix.

exhibit

A document or thing shown to a witness when giving evidence, produced for inspection to the court or referred to in an affidavit (q.v.).

expulsion

Permanent exclusion of a student from a school; compare: suspension (q.v.).

fair dealing

legitimate use or reproduction of part or all of copyright (q.v.) material by someone other than the copyright owner, for defined purposes.

false imprisonment

Confinement of a person without legal permission.

finding

The determination of a factual issue as a result of judicial inquiry.

forensic procedure

Examination of the body of a person suspected of having committed an offence, or the taking of certain body samples.

fraud

Intentionally dishonest act (or lack of action) done to deceive someone.

freedom of association

The right to belong, or not belong, to an industrial association (trade union).

freedom of information

The right of any person to have access to documents held by government agencies, except those exempted by legislation.

guarantee

To undertake (q.v.) that a contract or a legal act will be correctly carried out, e.g. that money will be repaid. The person giving the undertaking is called the guarantor.

guardian

A person who has the right and duty to protect another person, his or her property and rights. A plenary guardian has all the powers of a parent.

hearsay evidence

Evidence of a fact not personally seen or heard by a witness, but proved by him or her to have been said by another. Hearsay evidence is normally not admissible in court proceedings, but there are exceptions to this rule.

hire purchase

Where goods are sold with instalment payments required from the purchaser. No rights of ownership lie with the purchaser until the last payment due has been made.

identification parade

A police "line up" held so a witness to an offence can try to identify a suspect among other people of similar appearance.

implied terms

Terms set out in legislation (q.v.) that are automatically part of a contract, without having to be stated in the contract document.

implied warranty

A term, not stated in a contract but which must be fulfilled, that services and related goods will be fit for the purpose for which they are supplied.

in lieu

In place of. So: time in lieu - agreement to allow time off instead of payment for overtime worked.

in loco parentis

In the position of a parent; having the same authority as a parent over a child.

inadmissible

Not allowed, i.e. not able to be used as evidence in a court action.

incorporated association

A not-for-profit community organisation with a separate legal identity and a structure regulated by legislation.

indemnity

Compensation for a wrong done, or an expense or loss suffered as a result of the act or default of another. Verb: indemnify.

indictable offence

A serious crime which is generally triable before a judge and jury.

indictment

See: presentment.

infant

The legal term for a person under 18, used particularly in family law and civil actions (q.v.).

informed consent

Agreement given for something to be done, after the procedure has been fully explained so that the person understands the procedure and his or her rights to agree or refuse.

injunction

A court order which directs someone either to do, or to refrain from doing, a particular thing. An injunction may be interim (operative until further order) or perpetual (continuing indefinitely).

insolvent

Unable to pay debts in full.

instalment order

A court order allowing or requiring a debtor to pay a judgment debt (q.v.) by regular specified payments.

instruct

(Of a solicitor) to request a barrister to present a particular case in court and to provide him/her with the information and material necessary to do so.

instrument

A formal legal document in writing.

interim order

A temporary court order allowing or preventing certain action, until a full hearing can make a decision on the matter.

interrogation

The asking of questions. In criminal cases, the questioning of suspects by police. In civil proceedings, the pre-hearing process, by which a party asks the other party a series of written questions (interrogatories) which are then required to be answered on oath.

intervention order

An order made by police or on application to the Court ex parte regulating a defendant's behaviour towards a protected person. Intervention orders may be sought to prevent either domestic or non-domestic abuse.

intestate

One who dies without leaving a valid will. The deceased's property is distributed to the nearest relatives in an order set by law.

invalid

Not valid (q.v.); without legal effect.

involuntary patient

A patient admitted to a mental hospital on a doctor's recommendation and without the patient's consent.

joint tenants

Two or more persons who own land together in undivided shares; on the death of one owner his or her interest automatically passes to the surviving owner(s). Although each owner can sell or transfer their interest they cannot include it in their will. Compare: tenants in common (q.v.).

judgment

The official decision of the Court upon the claims of parties to an action or suit lodged with the Court for determination. Also known as a decision of the Court.

judgment debt

The amount awarded to be paid under a court order.

judicial review

Review by a court of an administrative act (q.v.) on the basis of fault in the decision-making process. Compare: review on the merits.

jurisdiction

The authority of a court to decide matters brought before it; the geographical limit within which a court order can be enforced.

juror

A member of a jury (q.v.).

jury

A panel of people selected from the general public to decide the guilt or innocence of people tried in criminal cases, or questions of damages (q.v.) in civil cases.

Justice of the Peace

Person able to witness legal documents.

knowingly concerned

Consciously and deliberately involved in committing an offence.

lease

A document of agreement between a landlord and a tenant, for rental of premises.

leasehold

An interest in land for a fixed period.

legally binding

Able to be enforced by law.

legislation

Laws made by Parliament which are referred to singly as Acts.

lessee

A person to whom property or goods are leased.

lessor

A person who leases property or goods to another.

letter of demand

A notice from a creditor that legal action will be taken if a debt is not paid.

letters of administration

The document by which a person is empowered to manage the estate of a deceased who left no valid will.

liability

Legal responsibility, e.g. for breaking a contract, committing a crime. It may be civil (q.v.) or criminal, and is enforced by civil or criminal courts.

libel

The publication of defamatory material in permanent form. See also: defamation, slander.

See defamation.

See slander.

lien

The right to hold a person's property as security for the performance of an obligation (e.g. the payment of money owing).

linked credit provider

A credit provider that has an arrangement with a supplier of goods that people wanting to borrow money to buy those goods will be directed to that credit provider.

litigation

Court proceedings in civil matters (q.v.). A litigant is one of the opposing parties (q.v.) in a civil proceeding.

litigation guardian

An adult through whom a person under 18 or a person with an intellectual disability can act in court, and who is liable for the costs of such action if unsuccessful.

magistrate

A judicial officer presiding over a Magistrates court.

malice

A desire to cause harm to someone, particularly in relation to an action for defamation (q.v.).

mandamus

A form of writ to commence an action for review of an administrative decision (failure to perform a duty) in the Supreme Court.

mandatory

Having to be strictly complied with. Mandatory reporting: obligation to report, e.g. cases of abuse of children, to authorities. Mandatory sentencing: automatic gaol term for certain offences.

Master

Legal officer of the Supreme Court empowered to perform auxiliary judicial duties.

material form

any form of storage from which a copyright (q.v.) work can be reproduced.

maximum penalty

A maximum penalty is just that; the maximum. A sentencing court cannot impose a penalty greater than the maximum which is set out in legislation. In determining penalty the sentencing court will have regard to the matters set out in s 10 of the Criminal Law (Sentencing) Act 1988, such as the circumstances of the offence, the offender and any victims.

means test

Assessment of a person's income and assets to see if they qualify for financial assistance.

mediation

Form of dispute resolution where an impartial third party helps communication and negotiations between the parties, but does not decide the dispute. Compare: arbitration (q.v.).

merchantable quality

Reasonable quality, being in a good enough condition to be sold.

misleading and deceptive conduct

Generally, an action or behaviour which leads another person into error, or which is unfair.

misrepresentation

Making a false statement, either deliberately or unintentionally, to induce someone to do something they would otherwise not have done, e.g. buy something.

mitigation

Circumstances which go towards reducing the damages or punishment which the court may order against a defendant or prisoner.

moral rights

the rights of the creator (not the owner) of an artistic, dramatic or literary work or film to have their authorship acknowledged and to protect the integrity of the work or film.

mortgage

A transfer of real property (land) or personal property (goods) as security for the repayment of money borrowed. The creditor to whom the mortgage is made is the mortgagee, the debtor who makes it is the mortgagor.

native title

A form of communal title whereby land is not owned but is used by those who have rights over it. Describes traditional Aboriginal rights over land in Australia.

natural justice

The rules and procedures to be followed by a person or body with the power to settle disputes. Some rules of natural justice are to act fairly, without bias, and the right of all parties to be heard.

necessaries

The basic requirements for a reasonable lifestyle, e.g. food, clothes, housing, etc.

negligence

A tort (q.v.) involving the breach of a duty of care (q.v.) resulting in loss or damage to another person.

negotiable instrument

A signed document by means of which money may be transferred from one person to another or through several hands, e.g. a cheque, bill of exchange (q.v.).

next friend

A person you can choose to assist you in presenting your case in court, but who cannot speak for you.

no case

In civil or criminal proceedings, a submission by one party that the other party has failed to establish a case to answer (prima facie case). If successful such a submission results in dismissal of the case.

non est factum

It is not his deed. A defence raised where a person has completed a deed in ignorance of its character.

non-parole period

The minimum term a prisoner must serve before being eligible for parole (q.v.).

oath

A pledge that statements made are true which is made with one's hand on the bible. Witnesses in court are required to take an oath or make an affirmation (q.v.) before giving evidence.

offence

A wrong prohibited by the criminal law.

offender

A person who commits an offence.

onus of proof

Burden of proof (q.v.).

own motion

Decision by a body to take action, e.g. to start an investigation, without a complaint having been made.

paramount

Most important.

parental responsibility

Under s 61B of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth), this includes all the duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which, by law, parents have in relation to their children.

parenting orders

Court orders made under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) pt VII and covering things such as who has parental responsibility for children, with whom children will live and spend time and with whom and how they will communicate.

parole

To free a prisoner on his or her own recognisances (q.v.) after serving a minimum term.

particulars

Details of a claim or defence.

pecuniary

Involving money. So: pecuniary loss - loss of an amount of money; pecuniary penalty - fine; pecuniary interest - financial interest (in property).

perjury

Lying under oath (q.v.) when questioned in a court proceeding or when making a sworn statement. A person found guilty of perjury may face imprisonment.

perpetrator

Person who committed the offence.

perpetual succession

Ownership of property remains with a group or organisation as a whole, not individual members of the group.

person responsible

The person highest on a designated list who is available and willing to give or refuse consent to medical treatment for a patient who has impaired decision-making capacity; the person on a designated list who can apply to the Guardianship Board for guardianship orders in relation to another person

plaintiff

Person who initiates legal proceedings against another in a civil dispute (c.f. complainant).

pleadings

Written or printed statements delivered by parties to one another so questions of fact and law to be decided in a court action can be ascertained.

power of attorney

A formal written legal document by which one person (the donor) gives another (the donee) power to represent them or act in their place for certain purposes. See: enduring power.

pre-hearing conference

An informal conference between the parties in a court action to try to reach a settlement or clarify any matters in dispute before the full hearing.

pre-sentence report

A report, usually prepared by the Department of Human Services, for the court to consider before sentencing a young person.

precedent

The doctrine by which courts are obliged to follow past decisions.

preliminary examination

See: committal proceedings.

prerogative writ

A writ issued by a higher court (e.g. the Supreme Court) to prevent lower courts and officials from exceeding their powers or to compel them to exercise their functions, e.g. habeas corpus (q.v.), mandamus (q.v.), certiorari (q.v.).

prima facie

On the face of it; enough evidence to indicate legal action is likely to be successful.

probate

The proving of a will, the acceptance by the Probate Registry of the Supreme Court that the deceased's will is valid (q.v.) and the last will in existence.

probation

A non-custodial sentencing order (q.v.) that involves good behaviour and supervision by a probation officer under defined reporting conditions for a specified period.

probation

A non-custodial sentencing order (q.v.) that involves good behaviour and supervision by a probation officer under defined reporting conditions for a specified period.

procure

To encourage or persuade someone to commit an offence.

professional indemnity insurance

Insurance that provides cover for a person against claims for negligence arising out of the performance of his or her professional duties.

prohibited name

A name which cannot be registered because it is obscene or offensive, impracticable or against the public interest.

prohibition

An order to stop decision-making proceedings in a lower court or tribunal.

prosecution

The party (q.v.) presenting evidence against the person accused of committing a crime.

prosecution

The party (q.v.) presenting evidence against the person accused of committing a crime.

provable debt

A debt that must be accepted for proportional payment from available funds by the trustee of a bankrupt (q.v.), and from which the bankrupt is released on discharge from bankruptcy.

prudential

Of careful business management.

public officer

Person appointed to act on behalf of an incorporated association in any public dealings.

pursuant to

According to, as directed by (an Act or Regulation).

qualified privilege

Limited protection against an action for defamation (q.v.) except where the person revealing the information did so out of malice (q.v.).

quash

To set aside, cancel.

quo warranto

By what authority; a prerogative writ (q.v.) to remedy improper use of public office.

real property

Land or other real estate.

recognisance

A bond (q.v.) the object of which is to secure the performance of an act by the person bound by it, e.g. to be of good behaviour.

Registry

The administrative section of a court, which handles enquiries and submission of documents to the court. The officer in charge is a registrar.

remission

For prisoners - a reduction in the time to be served on a sentence of imprisonment.

repeal

To abrogate (q.v.) or cancel legislation (q.v.) or a regulation (q.v.).

repossession

The taking possession of goods by a creditor from a debtor who has breached a term of a credit contract.

rescission

A revocation or stopping action, particularly of a contract. Rescission is only allowed where restitution (q.v.) is possible (verb: to rescind).

respondent

A person against whom a summons has been issued or an appeal brought.

restitution

Giving back what has been provided (under a contract), stolen, or seized to pay a debt.

restraining order

In family law, an order preventing a specified person from harassing or molesting the person applying for the order.

retrospective

Applying to circumstances existing before the date on which a law came into effect.

revocation

Cancelling the effect of a previous act, e.g. an earlier will.

sanction

A penalty or punishment imposed on someone found guilty of an offence.

secured creditor

A creditor (q.v.) who holds a mortgage, charge (q.v.) or lien (q.v.) on the property of the debtor.

security interest

An interest in or power over goods to secure payment of a debt or obligation.

sequestration order

An order that property be seized to satisfy a debt.

serious injury

In relation to transport injuries, a serious long-term impairment, disfigurement or loss of a body function, or severe long-term mental or behavioural disturbance, or loss of a foetus.

sheriff

An officer of the court responsible primarily for enforcement of court orders.

show cause

A reversed onus of proof (q.v.) which applies to applications for bail for some drug offences.

slander

The publication of defamatory material in non-permanent form. See also: defamation, libel.

See defamation.

See libel.

solvent

Able to pay all debts when they are due.

special damages

Damages (q.v.) paid for pain and suffering, disfigurement or loss of earning capacity or enjoyment of life. Compare: general damages (q.v.).

specific performance

Doing exactly what is stated in the terms of a contract.

spent conviction

A conviction for a minor criminal offence, which after a certain time without re-offending, is considered to no longer exist.

stamp duty

A state tax on transfers of ownership of assets or property, or on leases.

status quo

The existing situation.

statute

A law made by Parliament (state or Commonwealth).

statutory declaration

A written statement of facts which the person making it signs and solemnly declares to be true before a person authorised to take declarations.

statutory defence

A ground for defence included in a particular law which would prevent a person from being found guilty of an offence under the law.

strict liability

Liability incurred regardless of fault or ignorance of the law.

subpoena

A writ which commands the appearance of a person or the production of specified documents in a court.

substantiation

Providing evidence to prove that an event took place, e.g. an expense was incurred.

sue

To take legal action.

summary offence

A minor offence heard and decided in a Magistrates' Court and not sent for trial before a judge and jury.

summons

A document which is issued by the court requiring the attendance of the person named in the summons at court on a specified date.

surety

A person who binds him or herself to be answerable for another. If there is a default, the surety will be liable.

suspended sentence

A sentence of imprisonment which is only served if the convicted person commits further offences. May be partially or wholly suspended, or a combined custody and treatment order (q.v.).

suspension

exclusion of a student from school for a specified period as a disciplinary measure; less severe punishment than expulsion (q.v.).

sworn evidence

Evidence given under oath (q.v.).

taxable form

Refers to a lawyer's bill of costs (q.v.) which shows details of all the lawyer's charges.

tenancy

The relation between a landlord and a tenant for rented premises. (See: lease).

tenants in common

Form of ownership of land, where two or more people occupy the whole of the land 'in common'. Each owner can sell, transfer or will his or her share. On the death of one owner his or her interest does not pass to the surviving owner. Compare: joint tenants (q.v.).

terms of reference

The preset terms under which an inquiry is conducted or a decision is made.

testamentary capacity

The ability to draw up a valid will, the mental capacity to understand about property rights and family responsibilities.

testamentary disposition

A gift that takes effect on the death of the giver, a bequest made in a will.

testator

A person who makes a will. A female testator is sometimes called a testatrix.

testatrix

A person (female) who has written a will. Sometimes used instead of testator.

See testator.

tort

A civil (q.v.) wrong, an act which causes harm, intentionally or otherwise, for which the remedy is an action for unliquidated (q.v.) damages.

trafficking

In common law, movement from source to end user in the course of trade. Drug trafficking has a much wider definition.

treatment order

A court order that a person suffering from mental illness be sent to a psychiatric hospital for treatment instead of to prison after conviction for an offence.

trespass

Wrongful entry onto or interference with a property without the permission of the lawful owner or occupier.

tribunal

A body set up to hear and decide disputes, usually with less formality and less strict rules of evidence than in a court proceeding.

trolling

A troll is a slang term used to describe a person who deliberately posts inflammatory statements on a website with the intention of invoking an emotional response or being disruptive (their behaviour is called trolling). There are other behaviours such as posting deliberately off-topic comments on websites that are also covered by the slang term, trolling, however the most common usage of the term generally relates to inflammatory comments.

trust account

A special bank account where a lawyer deposits money held on behalf of other people, subject to strict accounting rules.

trust deed

A document which sets out the rights and obligations of the trustee and beneficiaries (q.v.) of a trust (q.v.).

ultra vires

Beyond the power. An act which is in excess of the authority conferred by law, and therefore invalid.

unconscionable conduct

Action that takes unfair advantage of another party that is under a special disability (q.v.) in a contract or transaction.

undertake

To promise, in the course of legal proceedings, to do or refrain from doing an act. An undertaking is enforceable by attachment or like an injunction.

undue influence

Taking unfair or improper advantage of the weakness of another party to make them agree to something.

unliquidated

Undetermined, unascertained, e.g. when damages are left to a jury to determine.

valid

Legally binding (q.v.) or effective.

vexatious

(Legal action) that is unnecessary or undertaken only to cause trouble or inconvenience for the other party.

victim impact statement

A statement to the court by the victim of a crime setting out details of injury, loss or damage caused by the crime.

visa

Permit that allows either temporary or permanent stay in a country.

void

Of no legal effect.

waive

To give up a legal right or claim.

warrant

A document issued by a court directing an officer to take certain action. May be: a warrant of apprehension, directing that a person be arrested and brought before a court; a warrant of commitment, directing that a person be arrested and imprisoned; a warrant of distress, directing that a person's goods be seized to satisfy a debt; or a warrant of seizure and sale of real estate.

warranty

(1) A minor clause in a contract, the remedy for breach of which is damages for any loss. (2) A promise to repair or replace defective goods.

whistleblower

Person who makes a complaint about illegal or inappropriate actions of their employer.

without prejudice

A statement or offer made on the basis that it will not affect a person's legal rights in later court action.

witness

A person who can provide direct information based on their own knowledge about a relevant fact in issue, and appears in court to do this.

writ

A document in the monarch's name and under the seal of the Crown which commands the person to whom it is addressed to do or refrain from doing some act.

written off

Of a debt: cancelled, releasing the debtor from obligation to pay.

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