• Cheek

What the F is: legal edition (pt1)

Updated: Jan 19, 2021

Our 'What the F is' section breaks down big, complex concepts in digestible formats.

When I started this legal glossary, I thought it would be a 'one and done' scenario, but the list kept growing. This glossary covers the legal basics from letters A to C, to provide you with a more informed understanding of the law and its language - outside of SVU.


To abolish. Often refers to the abrogation of a statute, meaning a piece or provision of legislation has been removed.


The determination that someone is 'not guilty' of a charge in a criminal case.


The adversarial system is the court system utilised in Australia. Under the adversarial system, barristers question witnesses and present evidence to the judge. The judge or jury then provides a verdict and makes further orders following the verdict.


Move a court hearing to a different time.


A document that presents written evidence in a court case which states that what a witness says is the truth.

aiding and abetting:

Assisting someone in carrying out a criminal offence.


An example of alternative dispute resolution. Through arbitration, parties appoint an independent person to assist in settling the dispute.


Bail allows a person who has been charged with an offence to be released from custody from the time of the charge until the hearing. Conditions can be added to these bailments.

balance of probabilities:

More likely than not. The balance of probabilities is the burden of proof in a civil case. It must be proved that what is claimed is more likely to be true than false. It is the lower standard of proof.

beyond reasonable doubt:

The higher standard of proof, required in criminal trials. If there is any reasonable doubt about the case made by the prosecution, it has not been proved and thus the defendant is not guilty.


Either, someone whose property is being looked after on behalf of them, by someone else OR a person who is left something in a will.

bona fide:


committal proceedings:

The first hearing in a Magistrates’ Court that determines if someone charged with a criminal offence will face trial in a higher court.

common law:

Law based on reasons judges have given for their decisions in court cases, and which judges in later, similar cases are subsequently bound to adhere to. Under the doctrine of precedent, lower courts (Magistrates Court) must follow relevant decisions of higher courts, such as the Supreme Court. It is also referred to as 'case law' and differs from statute.


The person who formally starts an action in a court or tribunal.


A document which is utilised to transfer land from one person to another.


Something of value (money, property, etc) given by one person to another as part of a contract.


An opposing party’s questions directed to a witness in a court case.


A term which refers to the legal power of the Commonwealth and state governments. In criminal trials, the case title will usually read 'R v 'name of criminal', the R refers to Regina (latin term for the Queen or the Crown) this represents the commonwealth or state government as the prosecutor in the case.


When a person is put under lawful control, such as when a person is arrested by the police and taken to a police station.