Abduction The act of taking someone against their will and forcibly transporting them elsewhere. Also known as ‘kidnapping’.
Abscond To run away; in a legal context, failing to give oneself up to custody when required to by the courts.
Absolute discharge When a defendant is found guilty but no further actions are taken (i.e. they are not convicted or made subject to any conditions following their release).
Absolute Privilege The right to make defamatory or false statements with immunity from legal action, even if statements are spoken with malice, in certain contexts (usually a law-making environment such as the Houses of Parliament or during judicial proceedings).
Acquit To legally declare someone not guilty of a crime.
Act of God A natural event that cannot be foreseen or prevented, such as a storm, earthquake or flood.
Adverse Possession When a person acquires land rights through the satisfaction of certain common law condition; for example, a squatter may obtain adverse possession of a property through long-term residence, even if the land is legally owned by another individual.
Adverse Witness A witness at a trial who is openly against the position of the party who called them to testify. Also known as a ‘hostile witness’ or ‘unfavourable witness’.
Advocate Someone who acts in the best interests of an individual or cause (i.e. a lawyer in the courtroom working on behalf of their client).
Affidavit A written statement that is signed by the writer (or ‘affiant’) and witnessed by an individual who is legally authorised to do so (such as a notary) in order to verify its veracity. The world is a literal translation of ‘he has stated on oath’.
Affray A crime in which two or more individuals fight in a public place and, in so doing, disturb the peace.
Aggravated Assault A crime in which the defendant purposefully and/or recklessly causes serious body injury to another individual in a manner that displays indifference to the value of human life.
Aggravated burglary A burglary in which the burglar is armed with a weapon, imitation firearm or explosive.
Aggravated damages Additional compensation awarded to a victim of a crime in which their injury has been worsened by the defendant’s attempt to distress, embarrass or humiliate them.
Agricultural holding Land that is the subject of a contract for agricultural tenancy (irrespective of whether it is agricultural land or not).
Aiding and abetting A crime in which the defendant assists or encourages another individual, or group of individuals, to commit a crime.
Alibi A claim, supported by evidence, to have been elsewhere at the time a crime was committed, and so not guilty of committing it.
Allegation The assertion that an individual has committed a crime. An allegation can be made with or without proof.
Ambulatory will A will that can be amended, as the person making it is still alive and able to do so.
Amnesty A law that protects people from criminal liability for offences committed in the past. For example, a government may grant immigrants who have entered the country illegally amnesty, and so protect them from future prosecution.
Annuitant An individual in receipt of an annuity (see below).
Annuity A fixed sum of money paid to an individual in annual instalments.
Annul To permanently void an event or judicial proceeding (e.g. a marriage) so that, from a legal perspective, it never took place.