Courts and Tribunals Tasmania

Tasmanian Magistrates Court Legal Dictionary

EDITION 1

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

A

Acquit: A finding by court that a defendant is not guilty in a criminal trial.

Act: A document that contains laws passed by the Parliament and which has received Royal Assent, that is, signed by the Governor (State laws) or Governor-General (Federal laws).

Adjournment: The postponement of a case to a later day

Adjournment Court: A court that sits for the specific purpose of adjourning cases to another day. 

Administrator: The Court's most senior officer in the administration section.

Affidavit: A written statement of facts confirmed by the oath or affirmation of the party making it, before a Justice of the Peace or some other authorised person. 

Affirmation: A process that allows a person who does not wish to take an oath to give evidence in court or to make an affidavit. An affirmation requires the making of a solemn promise to tell the truth.

Alternative Dispute Resolution or A D R: Settling a dispute without a full, formal trial. A D R methods include mediation and conciliation.

Anti-Discrimination Tribunal

Appeal: A proceeding taken in a higher court to correct an alleged error in another court. A person who appeals is called an appellant.

Arraignment: The procedure whereby a defendant is required to enter a plea to a charge.

Arrest: To take a person into custody by legal authority.

B

Bail: The release of a person from custody with the requirement that that person appears before a court at a particular time and place.

Barrister: A legal practitioner who represents a person in court

Bench: The seat occupied by the judge or magistrate. More broadly, the group of judicial officers who comprise the particular court.

Breach of Bail: The offence of not obeying a bail order.

Burden of Proof: In the law of evidence, the necessity or duty of affirmatively proving a fact or facts in dispute on an issue raised between the parties in a lawsuit. Compare Standard of proof.

C

Case Law: Law which is found in previously decided cases. 

Charge: An allegation that a person has committed an offence. A charge is set out in a document called a complaint.

Children's Court: See Magistrates Court (Youth Justice Division) and Magistrates Court (Children's Division).

Civil Claim: A claim between two or more parties involving, for example, damages or debt. Compare Criminal.

Claimant: A person who makes a Civil Claim in a court.

Clerk of Petty Sessions: A senior officer in the Court's administration section.

Closed Court: A court to from which persons who are not associated with the case are excluded.

Community Service Order: An approved program of activities in which offenders may be ordered by a court to participate. See, for example, the Sentencing Act 1997 Part 4, the Corrections Act 1997 section 88 and the Youth Justice Act 1997 Part 4 Division 10.

Complainant: A person who signs a complaint. However, in practice, the term is sometimes used to refer to the alleged victim of a crime.

Complaint: A court document that sets out one or more charges against a person. 

Conciliation: A form of Alternative Dispute Resolution. In the Magistrates Court of Tasmania, the process by which parties to a dispute are required by a court to participate with an approved court-appointed conciliator in an attempt to resolve the dispute by agreement. 

Contest Mention: A form of case management in the Magistrates Court.

Continuance: American term for an adjournment.

Coroner's Court: See Magistrates Court (Coronial Division).

Correctional Officer: A person appointed under the Corrections Act 1997 who is usually employed in a prison.

Counsel: A lawyer who is representing a person in a court. 

Court Clerk: An officer of the court who sits in front of the magistrate and who assists the magistrate, for example, by managing the court's records.

Court of Criminal Appeal: In Tasmania, a court that consists of two or more Judges that hears appeals from the decision of a single Judge or from a jury verdict in criminal matters. 

Criminal Law: The body of law which, if breached, is punishable by imprisonment, a fine or some other penalty.

D

Defendant: A person charged with an offence or a person against whom a civil claim is made.

Detainee: A person, other than a prisoner, who is subject to an order of a court by which he or she is remanded or otherwise committed to prison.

Directions Hearing: In the Magistrates Court of Tasmania, a preliminary hearing in a civil claim in which a Magistrate makes orders to ensure that the case proceeds in an orderly and efficient manner.

Dismissal: The termination of a charge or civil claim by Court order in favour of a defendant.

District Registrar: A senior officer in the Court's administration section.

Dock: An enclosure in some court rooms in which a defendant in a criminal trial sits.

E

Execution: The seizure under the authority of a court judgment or order of a person's property.

F

Federal Courts: Courts created or authorised by the Australian Constitution. See also High Court of Australia, Family Court of Australia, Federal Court of Australia. Compare State Courts.

Federal Jurisdiction: That jurisdiction which is exercised by a Federal Court or by a court that is invested with jurisdiction to hear cases under federal law. See the Australian Constitution Chapter 2. Click here.

Fifty B (50B): A procedure whereby a case is adjourned to another day and/or to another Registry of the Magistrates Court upon the written application of the parties. Once the application is approved, it is unnecessary for the parties to appear before the Court at the date and time of originally specified.

Fine: A monetary penalty imposed by a court for a breach of the criminal law. See further: Sentencing Act 1997 section 4 fine'. 

Form 40: See 'Fifty B (50B)'.

Full Court: In Tasmania, a court that consists of two or more Judges that hears appeals from the decision of a single Judge in civil matters.

G

Gaol: See Prison.

Guilty: (a) A plea entered by a defendant to a charge whereby all elements of the charge are admitted. (b) A verdict of a court whereby the court finds the defendant to be criminally responsible for the conduct alleged in the charge.

H

Hearing: In the Magistrates Court of Tasmania, a process whereby evidence is tendered or submissions made to enable the court to resolve a dispute.

I

Interim Restraint Order: A temporary order made by a court under the Justices Act 1959 Part 10A restraining a person from engaging in the behaviour specified in that order. Compare Restraint Order.

J

Judge: In Tasmania, an appropriately qualified legal practitioner who has been appointed as a judge to the Supreme Court of Tasmania. See the Supreme Court Act 1887 section 4.

Judgment: The decision or sentence of a court or the reasons for that decision or sentence.

Judicial Independence: The principle that courts should decide cases according to law and independently of the executive and legislative arms of government.

Jurisdiction: The scope of the powers possessed by a particular court.

Jury: A group of men and women sworn to decide questions of fact in a judicial proceeding. Although juries are not used in the Magistrates Court (the magistrate both decides the facts and rules on the law), they are used in the Supreme Court. Criminal trials require 12 jurors and in those civil trials where jurors may be used, 7 jurors comprise the jury. See the Jury Act 1899.

Justice of the Peace: Persons appointed by the Crown to carry out certain duties including witnessing documents such as affidavits and authorising search warrants. A Justice of the Peace (or 'J P') may carry out certain judicial duties if authorised to do so by the Chief Magistrate: see the Justices Act 1959 section 23AB. For more information as to the duties of Justices of the Peace, click here.

K

L

Lawyer: See Legal Practitioner

Legal Practitioner: In Tasmania, an appropriately qualified person who has been admitted practise law. See the Legal Profession Act 1993.

M

Magistrate: In Tasmania, an appropriately qualified legal practitioner who has been appointed as a magistrate to the Magistrates Court of Tasmania. See the Magistrates Court Act 1987 section 8.

Magistrates Court: The court that hears and decides criminal and civil cases that are not the most serious cases. .

Magistrates Court (Children's Division): The section of the Magistrates Court that is responsible for cases that involve children who are at risk as a result of abuse or neglect..

Magistrates Court (Civil Division): The section of the Magistrates Court that is responsible for hearing civil cases. 

Magistrates Court (Minor Civil Division): The section of the Magistrates Court that is responsible for hearing minor civil cases  

Magistrates Court (Coronial Division): The section of the Magistrates Court that is responsible for investigating certain deaths, fires and explosions.

Magistrates Court (Mining Division): The section of the Magistrates Court that is responsible for hearing appeals that involve mineral exploration and mining.

Magistrates Court (Youth Justice Division): The section of the Magistrates Court that is responsible for hearing cases that involve children who are alleged to have committed offences against the criminal law.

Manager: A senior officer in the Court's administration section who is responsible for the management of a particular section of the court.

Mediation: A form of Alternative Dispute Resolution. In the Magistrates Court of Tasmania, the process by which parties to a dispute are encouraged by a court to participate with an approved court-appointed mediator in an attempt to resolve the dispute by agreement.

Minor Civil Claim: Any dispute claiming $5000 or less including Residential Tenancy Matters.

Motor Accidents Compensation Tribunal: Click here.

N

Not Guilty: (a) A plea entered by a defendant to a charge whereby all elements of the charge are denied. (b) A verdict of a court whereby the court finds the defendant to be not criminally responsible for the conduct alleged in the charge.

O

Open Court: A court to which members of the public may be present. Compare closed court.

Onus of Proof: See Burden of proof.

Oath: By taking an oath a person who gives evidence in court or who makes an affidavit calls upon his or her God to witness that that person's statements are made honestly. Compare affirmation.

Order: The command or direction of a court.

P

Parliament: The Legislature.

Party: A person who commences a court case or against whom a case is brought.

Plea: In a criminal trial, the response of a defendant to a charge. The most common pleas are guilty and not guilty, although certain other special peas may be entered.

Pre-Sentence Report (or PSR): A report prepared at the Court's request which sets out background and other information regarding a defendant in a criminal case. PSRs are used by courts to assist in the sentencing process. They are prepared by Probation Officers and Youth Justice Workers.

Prison: A place that the Governor has declared to be a place of detention.

Prisoner: A person who is subject to an order of a court by which he or she is sentenced to a term of imprisonment, that is, to be detained in a prison. Compare detainee.

Probation Officer: A person appointed as a probation officer pursuant to the Sentencing Act 1997 section 5.

Probation Order: An order made against an offender under the Sentencing Act 1997 or the Youth Justice Act 1997.

Prosecutor: The person who takes court proceedings alleging the commission of an offence. In practice, the prosecutor is usually the Director of Public Prosecutions or another public officer, usually a police officer.

Proved: A finding by a court that a defendant has committed an offence.

Q

R

Registrar: A senior officer in the Court's administration section.

Regulations: Laws that are made under the authority of an Act. These laws usually specify further details.

Respondent: A party against whom any application is made to a court. 

Restraint Order: An order made by a court under the Justices Act 1959 Part 10A restraining a person from engaging in the behaviour specified in the order. Compare Interim Restraint Order.

Restricted Driver Licence: A driver licence that is issued upon the authority of a court that permits a person to drive motor vehicle in specified circumstances even though that person's licence has been suspended or cancelled. See the Vehicle and Traffic Act 1999 section 18 and the Road Safety (Alcohol and Drugs) Act 1970 section 19.

Rule of Law: The doctrine that (a) all people are equal before the law; (b) acts of the government's officials can be reviewed by the courts to determine whether they comply with the law; (c) a person cannot be punished except for a breach of the law and in the courts. The exercise of power is not arbitrary but must be subject to the law.

Rules of Court: Rules that regulate the Court's practice and procedure

S

Sentence: The penalty imposed by a court for the commission of a criminal offence.

Solicitor: See Legal Practitioner.

Standard of Proof: The degree to which a court must be satisfied that a party who carries the burden of proof . In a civil case the burden of proof rests with the plaintiff, who must establish his or her case by the standard of proof on the balance of probabilities. In a criminal matter, the standard is to the court's satisfaction beyond reasonable doubt.

Stand Down: An order of a court delaying the hearing of a case until later that day. Compare Adjournment.

State Courts: Those courts which are created under the law of a State. Compare Federal Courts.

Summons: A document that requires a person to appear in court to give evidence or to produce a document.

Supreme Court of Tasmania:

Suspended Sentence or Detention: A period of imprisonment or detention ordered by a court for an offence but which does not have to be served provided the offender complies with specified conditions, for example, to be of good behaviour, for a particular period, for example, two years. 

T

Trial: The examination and decision of a matter of law or fact by a court of law.

U

V

Verdict: the decision of a jury.

W

Warrant: A document signed by a judge, magistrate or other authorised officer that orders the arrest, detention or imprisonment of a person.

Witness: A person who gives evidence in a court.

Witness Box: A place in a court room where a witness sits or stands when giving evidence. Compare Witness Stand

Witness Stand: American term for Witness Box.

X

Y

Youth Justice Court: See Magistrates Court (Youth Justice Division).

Youth Justice Worker: An officer employed in the Department of Health and Human Services whose duties include preparing Pre-Sentence Reports and supervising youths who are subject to Probation Orders.

Z