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Plain eng guide to_legal_terms


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Plain eng guide to_legal_terms

  1. 1. NALA 76 Lower Gardiner Street, Dublin 1, A Plain English Guide Ireland. 01 855 4332 to Legal Terms www.nala.ieWhat is the National Adult Literacy Agency?The National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) is a non-profitmembership organisation, concerned with nationalco-ordination, training and policy development in adultliteracy work in Ireland. The Agency was established in 1980and from that time has campaigned for recognition andresponse to the adult literacy problem in Ireland.NALA receives a grant from the Department of Education andScience, which enables the Agency to staff national and regionaloffices. In addition, the Department of Social, Community andFamily Affairs provide NALA with a grant towards staffing andpublicity costs. The Department of Health and Children and FÁSalso fund specific development work. 01 855 4332 • •
  2. 2. A Plain English Guideto Legal Terms 2003
  3. 3. A Plain English Guide to Legal TermsPublished byNational Adult Literacy Agency76 Lower Gardiner Street,Dublin 1.© 2003 National Adult Literacy AgencyThe copyright in this guide belongs to theNational Adult Literacy Agency.ISBN 1-871737-29-xThe views expressed in this publication are not necessarily theviews of the National Adult Literacy Agency.
  4. 4. Introduction The language used in law is changing. There are many legal phrases that non-lawyers don’t understand. This guide is intended to help non-lawyers understand legal phrases and to give lawyers guidance in explaining the legal phrases they use. Although it comprises over 60 pages with over 1,400 words explained, this is not a complete dictionary of legal terms in use in Ireland. The explanations in this guide are not intended to be alternatives. Lawyers will continue to use legal phrases when necessary. This publication is designed to explain ideas and concepts rather than to give legal definitions. We invite your suggestions for additions. Please e-mail us at with your ideas. The National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) would like to thank Patrick O’Connor, B.C.L., LL.B., Solicitor of Swinford, County Mayo who edited the legal content of the guide. He was President of the Law Society of Ireland in 1999. NALA would also like to thank: G The Plain English Campaign in the UK for providing the bulk of the initial information from their ‘A to Z of legal terms in plain English’. G Kieron Wood for making available ‘Glossary of legal terms’ from his website ( as a reference point from his website. G The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions for their ‘Glossary of Legal terms’. 3
  5. 5. A Plain English Guideto Legal TermsA Abrogation Annulment; repeal (of a law)Ab initio* AbscondFrom the beginning. When a person fails to presentAbandonment themselves before the courtGiving up a legal right. when required.Abatement AbsoluteG Cancelling a writ or action; Complete and unconditional.G stopping a nuisance;G Absolute owner reducing the payments to creditors in proportion if The only owner of property there is not enough money to Absolute privilege pay them in full; orG A defence which can be used in reducing the gifts in a will, in a case of defamation if the proportion, when there is not statement from which the enough money to pay them in defamation arose was: made in full. either house of the OireachtasAbduction (Dáil or Seanad) in fair andTaking someone away by force. accurate news reporting of court proceedings; or madeAbovementioned during court proceedings.Describing something which Abstract of titlehas been referred to before inthe document. A document summarising the title deeds to a property. Please note: Words marked * are Latin in origin Words marked † are French in origin 5
  6. 6. A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms Abuse of process Accused When court proceedings are The person charged with a brought against a person criminal offence. without any good reason and with malice. Acknowledgement Admitting that someone has a Abuttals claim or admitting that a debt The parts of the boundaries of exists. a piece of land which touch land alongside. Acquiescence Action or inaction which legally Acceptance binds someone. When an offer is accepted unconditionally a legally Acquit binding agreement is created. When a court lets a person go without any penalty. If a court Acceptance of service decides that a person is not When a solicitor accepts court guilty of a crime, or the case proceedings on behalf of a client. has not been proved, it will acquit the person. Acceptor The organisation which will pay Acquittal the cheque or bill of exchange The courts decision that a it has accepted. person is innocent of the crime they were charged with. Accessory Someone who encourages or Act of bankruptcy helps another person to commit An act which, if carried out by a crime. a person with debts, could have led to bankruptcy Accomplice proceedings against that Someone who helps another person. person to commit a crime. Act of God Accounts An event resulting from natural The record of spending and causes without human financial situation. intervention (such as floods or Accumulation earthquakes). Reinvesting income generated Action by a fund back into the fund. Proceedings in a civil court.6
  7. 7. Active trustActive trust Additional voluntaryA trust where the trustees have contribution (AVC)other responsibilities rather Extra money people inthan to just let the beneficiaries occupational pension schemeshave the trusts assets when can pay in to increase theirthey ask for them. pension benefits.Actual loss AdemptionAn insurance term which When a gift in a will cannot bemeans that the insured item no made because the item nolonger exists. longer exists.Actuary Adjourned sine dieAn expert on pension scheme When a court case has no dateassets and liabilities, life fixed for it to continue.expectancy and probabilities(the likelihood of things Adjournmenthappening) for insurance Postponing a court hearing.purposes. AdjudgeActus reus* To give an official judgementAn act which is illegal, about something.Ad hoc* AdjudicationFor a particular purpose. Formal judgment or decision of a court.Ad idem*In agreement. Administrative law Law which applies to hearingsAd infinitum* before quasi-judicial orEndlessly or forever. administrative tribunals.Ad interim* AdministratorFor the time being. Someone who has been appointed to manage the estateAd valorem* of someone who has diedIn proportion to the value. without leaving a will. Admissibility of evidence Evidence which can be presented in court. 7
  8. 8. A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms Admission Advocate One side in a case agreeing The lawyer who speaks in court that something the other side for a client. has alleged is true. Affidavit Admonition A written statement which is Reprimanding of a defendant sworn to be true by the person by a judge. signing it. Adoption Affirm The system which people use to Solemnly promise to tell the become parents even though truth in court or in an affidavit. they are not the childs natural parents. Affirmation Solemnly promising to tell the Adoptive child truth when giving evidence. A child who has been legally adopted. Affray Fighting unlawfully. Adoptive parent A person who has legally Aforementioned adopted a child. Describing something referred to previously in a document. ADR Alternative dispute resolution Aforesaid such as arbitration, mediation Describing something which and conciliation. has been said or referred to before in a document. Adverse possession Occupying of land, without Age of consent legal title for long enough – The age when a girl can normally 12 years – to be consent to have sexual recognized as the legal owner intercourse. ("squatters rights"). Agency Adverse witness The relationship between a A witness who gives evidence principal and an agent. which damages the case of the Agent side which asked the witness to testify for them. Person with power to contract or act on behalf of others.8
  9. 9. Aggravated assaultAggravated assault All thatA serious type of assault. Words used in a conveyance to introduce the description of theAggravated damages property which is beingExceptional damages awarded a court where a defendantsbehaviour towards the plaintiff Allegationor victim has been particularly An unproved statementhumiliating, malicious or declaring that something hasvindictive. happened.Aider and abettor AlleviateOne who advises or encourages To lessen.the commission of a crime. Allocation rateAiding and abetting The proportion of money left toHelping someone to commit a be invested after charges havecrime. been taken off when money is paid into a fund.AirspaceThe space in the atmosphere Allotmentdirectly above a piece of land. Shares allocated to a buyer.Alias Alternate directorA false name. A person appointed by a director to take the directorsAlien place.Someone from a foreigncountry. Alternative dispute resolutionAlienation Method by which disputes areTransferring the ownership of resolved, other than throughproperty from one person to litigation, usually by mediationanother. or arbitration.All and sundry Alternative verdictEverybody. A person being found guilty of a less serious crime than the one they were charged with. 9
  10. 10. A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms Amalgamation Annuitant Two or more companies The person who gets paid a combining. yearly amount. Ambiguity Annuity Capability of more than one An amount paid out every year meaning. to someone. Ambulatory will Annul A will which can be revoked or Cancel. changed while the person who made it is still living. Ante* Before. Amicus curiae* Advisor to the court on a point Antecedents of law who is appointed by the Details about the past of a court to represent a person. defendant or a person. Amnesty Antedate Not punishing a person for an A date before a document was offence committed. drawn up. Ancient lights Antenuptial agreement The right not to have the light A legal agreement between two you receive from a neighbours people who are to get married. land blocked. Anton Piller order Annual accounts An order by the Court which The summary of financial gives the applicant permission transactions during the year. to search the defendants premises for evidence, inspect Annual general meeting it and take it away. The yearly meeting of the members of an organisation. Appeal Challenge to a court decision in Annual return a higher court. A return which must be sent by a company to the Registrar Appearance of Companies each year. The act of replying to a summons or turning up in court and accepting its jurisdiction to proceedings.10
  11. 11. AppellantAppellant ArraignmentThe person who is appealing to Procedure for calling accuseda court against a decision of a before court to answer chargeslower court. and to say whether he or she is guilty or not guilty.Appellate jurisdictionThe authority a court has to Arrearshear an appeal against a Accumulated debt which hasdecision made by a lower court. not been paid on the due date.Applicant ArrestThe person asking a court to do To seize someone suspected ofsomething. committing a crime and take them into custody.AppointeeThe person who gets the benefit Arsonof the use of a power of Setting fire to something toappointment. cause damage to it.Appointor ArticlesThe person who uses a power The clauses in a document.of appointment. Articles of associationApportionment The document which set out aDivision of rights and liabilities. companys rules.Appurtenances AssaultMinor rights in land. Touching – or threatened touching – of another personArbitrage without that persons consent.Borrowing money at a low rateof interest to lend out again at Assenta higher rate. A document used by personal representatives to transferArbitration property to a beneficiary.Settling a dispute by using areferee. Asset Something ownedArbitratorReferee who settles a dispute Assignwithout the need to use the Transfer.courts. 11
  12. 12. A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms Assignment Attorney The formal transfer of the A person appointed to act for rights to something. another person. Assurance Attorney General Insurance cover for an event Legal adviser to the which will definitely happen Government. such as death. Audi Alteram Partem* Assure Hear the other side. Transfer the ownership of something. Audit An independent examination of Assured records and financial The person whose life is statements. insured or who is entitled to receive the benefit from the Auditors report assurance cover. A report and opinion by an independent person or firm on Attachment and committal financial records. Bringing a person before court with threat of imprisonment for Auterfois convict* failure to obey the court’s Formerly convicted. One may order. not be convicted twice for the same offence. Attachment of earnings A court order that deductions Authentication be made from a persons Verification of document for earnings. legal purposes. Attachment Authorised investments Procedure by which judgement Investments in which a trustee on property maybe enforced. is permitted to invest trust money. Attest To witness a signature on a Authorised share capital document. The highest amount of share capital that a company can Attestation issue. Authentication of an act or document by a witness.12
  13. 13. AutopsyAutopsy Bankers draftAn examination of a dead body A cheque drawn by a bank onto find the cause of death. itself.Averment BankruptPositive factual allegation in an Someone who has had aaffidavit. bankruptcy order made concerning him.B Bankruptcy order An order that a court issuesBail against someone if they cannotTo pay, or promise to pay, an pay their debts when they areamount of money so that an due to be paid.accused person is not put inprison before the trial. Bankruptcy search A document which statesBailee whether or not someone isA person looking after items to bankrupt.keep them safe for the owner. BarBailiff The collective term forAn officer of the court who barristers. When a personcarries out the courts orders. becomes a barrister it is calledBailiwick being called to the bar.The area over which a bailiff Bare trusthas jurisdiction. A trust which holds propertyBailment on behalf of a person until they ask for it back.Transferring possession ofgoods from the owner to Bare trusteesomeone else. Someone who holds propertyBailor on behalf of another person until asked to return it.The owner of goods which arein the possession of another Bargain and saleperson for safekeeping. A contract to sell any propertyBalance sheet or investment in land that a person owns.Summary of a financialposition. 13
  14. 14. A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms Barrister Beneficiary A member of one branch of the Someone who benefits from a legal profession who advises will, a trust or a life insurance clients, generally works in the policy. courts, and who receives instructions from a solicitor. Bequeath Barristers do not normally deal To give something to a person with members of the public. in a will. Barter Bequest A way of paying for things by Something given in a will. exchanging goods instead of Bigamy using money. The offence committed by Battery someone who is already Using physical force on married but still goes through a someone either intentionally or marriage ceremony with without their agreement. someone else. Bearer Bill of costs Person who has a document in The account a solicitor sends to their possession. a client giving details of any outlay the solicitor has paid on Bench behalf of the client, the fee The name for the judges in a charged and expenses. court. Bill of exchange Bench warrant A signed written order A warrant issued by a court for instructing the person to whom the arrest of an accused person it is addressed to pay an who has failed to attend court. amount of money to someone. A cheque is a type of bill of Beneficial interest exchange. Belonging to a person even though someone else is the Bill of lading legal owner. A document recording the goods a ship carries and the Beneficial owner terms the goods are carried The actual owner of property. under.14
  15. 15. Bill of saleBill of sale Bonded goodsA document which transfers Goods for which a bond hasownership of goods from one been paid to the Revenueperson to another. Commissioners (Customs and Excise) as security for the dutyBinding effect owed on the goods.An agreement that must bekept to. Bonded warehouse A warehouse approved by TheBinding over Revenue CommissionersAn order by a court in a (Customs and Excise) forcriminal case. storing goods imported into theBinding precedent country until the duty on them has been paid or the goodsFollowing the decisions made have been exported to anotherby higher courts. country.Blackmail Bonus sharesDemanding payment from a Free shares that a companyperson in return for not offers to its shareholders inrevealing something shameful proportion to their existingabout them. shareholdings.Bodily harm Book valuePhysical injury or pain. The value of a fixed asset, suchBona fide* as a building or machine, as recorded in the accounts.In good faith.Bona vacantia* Bought note A document showing details ofGoods or an estate belonging to a purchase by someone for anobody. third party. StockbrokersBond produce bought notes for theirA written promise to repay a clients.debt at an agreed time and to Breach of contractpay an agreed rate of interest Failing to carry out a dutyon the debt. under a contract. 15
  16. 16. A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms Breach of duty Bye-law or bylaw Failing to carry out something A law made by a local authority which is required by law or or an organisation which has doing something the law power to do so. forbids. Breach of trust C When a trustee does something which is against the trusts Call rules or fails to do something Asking people to pay for new required by the trusts rules. shares they have applied for. Break clause Called-up capital A clause in a contract which All the shares called by a allows it to be ended. company when it issues shares. Brief A document prepared by a Canon law solicitor which contains the The name for the rules used for instructions for the barrister to governing a Christian church. follow when acting in court. Capacity Building preservation notice Someones ability to enter into A notice that a building is a legal agreement. listed. Capital allowances Burden of proof Allowances that you can A rule of evidence that requires sometimes claim when you buy a party to a court action to long-term assets to use in your prove something, business. otherwise the contrary will be Capital gain assumed by the court. For The profit you make if you sell example, in criminal trials, the or dispose of an asset for more prosecution has the burden of than it cost you. proving the accused guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Capital gains tax Burglary A tax charged on a capital gain. Entering a building without Capital punishment permission with the intention Punishing someone for a crime of stealing or doing damage. by killing them.16
  17. 17. Capital redemption reserveCapital redemption reserve CautionA company has this reserve in A warning given by a Garda toits financial records if any of a suspected criminal when hethe shares it has issued are is arrested; a document sent tocancelled. the Land Registry by someone who may have a right overCare order land, which requests that noAn order by a court instructing dealings in the land area local authority to care for a registered until the person withchild. the right has been told.Careless driving Caveat*Driving a car without A formal warning.consideration for other people. Caveat emptor*Cartel Buyer beware.An agreement betweenbusinesses to restrict Central Criminal Courtcompetition and keep prices The High Court sitting to dealhigh. with serious criminal offences such as rape and murder.Case lawLaw that is based on the Certificate of incorporationresults of previous court cases. A certificate stating that a company has beenCase stated incorporated.The written statement settingout the facts of a case. Certificate of origin A certificate stating in whichCausation country the goods beingOne thing being done causing imported were made.something else to happen. Certiorari*Cause of action An order by the High CourtThe reason someone is entitled that a case should be sue someone else. Challenge for cause When the defence objects to a juror and says why it objects. 17
  18. 18. A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms Challenge to a jury Charges clause When either side in a case A clause which appears in objects to the people who have some contracts and sets out been selected to serve on the who should pay for certain jury before they are sworn in. items. Challenge without cause Charging clause When a person objects to a Trustees can charge the trust juror but does not say why. for their services if there is a charging clause. Chambers Judges personal rooms where Charging order cases may be heard in private A court judgement which a or “in camera”. creditor may get against the person or organisation which Charge owes the money giving the Formally accuse someone of creditor security over the committing a crime; Use debtors property for repayment property as security for a debt of the debt. (such as a mortgage); or a direction given by a judge to Charity tell the jury what they must do. An organisation set up to do good for the community. Charge certificate A certificate which the Land Chattel Registry issues to the lender Any property except freehold who has lent money on the land. security of registered land. Chattels personal Charge sheet The name for goods which can The document on which a be touched such as watches, garda records details of the clothes and furniture. accusation against a suspect. Chattels Chargeable event Moveable property. An event that may create a tax liability. Cheat A person who fails to send tax Chargeable gain returns to the tax Revenue A gain on which capital gains Commissioners or fails to pay tax is payable. the tax owing.18
  19. 19. ChequeCheque Circuit CourtA written order addressed to a Court above the District Courtbank instructing the bank to and below the High Court, withpay an amount of money to the power to award damages up toperson or organisation named k38,000 (as at September 2003)on the cheque. and deal with most criminal cases.Cheque cardA card issued by a bank to a Circuit judgecustomer. A judge who is in charge of cases in the Circuit Court.Child abuseMolestation or ill-treatment Circumstantial evidencesuffered by a child. Evidence which suggests a fact but does not prove the fact isChild Support Maintenance true.The amount of maintenancethe parent not living with their Citationchild must pay. Quoting from a completed case to support an argument; or aChild notice sent out by someonePerson under 18. wanting grant of probate orChildren in care letters of administration asking people to come forward if theyChildren looked after by a local object to it.authority. Citizens arrestChose An arrest by someone who isAn item of property. not a Garda. The offence mustChose in action be in the course of being committed or have alreadyA right such as a patent, or a been committed when theright to recover a debt. arrest is made.Chose in possession Civil courtAn object which physically A court which does not hearexists, such as furniture. criminal cases. 19
  20. 20. A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms Claim Codicil Apply for a right; demand a Amendment to or addition of remedy; or an application for an existing will. something such as a right. Codifying statute Claimant A statute used to bring together The person making a claim. all the law on a particular subject. Class action Legal action taken by a number Coercion of different persons where the A defence that a crime was facts and the defendants are committed because the person similar. accused was forced to do it. Clause Cognisance A section in a contract. Notice. Claytons Case Collateral This case established a Extra security for a debt. presumption that money withdrawn from an account is Collusion presumed to be debited against Illegal and usually secret the money first deposited “first agreement between two or more in, first out”. people to deceive a court or defraud another person. Clearing bank One of several major banks Commissioner for Oaths which work together to A person appointed by the exchange and pay for cheques Chief Justice to administer the which their customers have swearing of oaths. written. Committal for sentence Close company When judges have found A company controlled by a few someone guilty of a crime but people or by its directors. they think their sentencing powers are not enough. Closing order An order prohibiting the use of a licenced premises when the owner has been convicted of certain crimes.20
  21. 21. Committal for trialCommittal for trial Common sealWhen a judge looks at the The seal companies use toevidence in a case and then validate important companysends the case to be heard in documents.the Court. Commorientes*Committal order Closely related people who dieAn order used to send someone at the same time and it isto prison for contempt of court. unclear which of them died first.Committal proceedings Community service orderA court hearing where a An order to do work in theDistrict Judge decides if there community without enough evidence of a seriouscrime to justify a trial by jury. Company secretary A person appointed by theCommittee of inspection directors of a company who isA committee appointed from responsible for making surethe creditors of a company in that the company compliesliquidation to oversee the with the Companies Acts.liquidators work. CompanyCommon duty of care Legal entity which permits aThe duty of the occupier of group of shareholders to createpremises or land to take an organization to pursue setreasonable care of visitors to objectives.make sure that they are keptsafe. Compensation Money paid to make up forCommon law damage, injury or loss caused.Judge made law which hasdeveloped over centuries, also Compensation for loss ofreferred to as “unwritten law”. officeCommon law (as practised in Compensation an employerIreland, England and the USA) pays to an employee whoseis often contrasted with civil contract has been systems (as in France or Compensation orderGermany) where laws are setdown in a written code. An order by a court to a criminal to compensate the victim of the crime. 21
  22. 22. A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms Completion Condition Transferring property in A fundamental part of an exchange for payment. agreement. Compos Mentis* Condition precedent Of sound mind. Something which must happen before an agreement starts. Composition with creditors An arrangement between a Condition subsequent debtor and the creditors. Something which may happen in the future. Compulsory purchase Taking land when it is needed Conditional agreement for a public project, such as An agreement which depends roads or housing. on a certain thing happening in the future. Compulsory winding up The liquidation of a company Conditional discharge by order of the court. A court may decide not to punish a criminal immediately Concealment for an offence and may Failure to disclose information conditionally discharge the which the other side would criminal instead. need to consider when deciding whether or not to go ahead Conditional sale agreement with a transaction. An agreement by which the seller remains the owner of the Concealment of securities goods until all the instalments Hiding or destroying a document have been paid and all other to gain benefit for yourself or conditions have been met. cause other people loss of benefit. Consecutive sentence Conclusive evidence When someone is sentenced for Evidence which cannot be different crimes and the disputed. sentences have to be served Concurrent sentence one after another. When someone is sentenced for Consent different crimes and the To agree to something. sentences are to be served at the same time.22
  23. 23. Consent OrderConsent Order Constructive trustCourt order agreed between Trust imposed by a court inboth sides. certain circumstances regardless of the intention ofConsideration the parties involved.The price or value. ContemptConsign Deliberate disregard of a courtTo leave property in the order.custody of another. Consumer credit agreementConsignee An agreement by a creditor toThe person goods have been provide credit to a consumer.sent to. ContemporaneousConsignor Existing at the same timeThe person who sent the goods. Contempt of CourtConspiracy Disobeying a court order;Combinations of persons for an abusing a judge during a courtunlawful purpose. case; or interfering in theConstruction administration of justice.Legal process of interpreting a Contemptuous damagesphrase or document. A small amount of damages.Constructive Contingency feeDescribing something which The claimants lawyer gets paidmay not be set out in the law the fee only if the case is won.but will nevertheless beconsidered to exist. Contingent legacy A gift in a will which will onlyConstructive dismissal be made if certain conditionsBecause the employer has are met.broken fundamental terms ofthe contract of employment the Contractemployee has been forced to An agreement between two orresign. more people to do or not to do something.Constructive noticePresuming something isknown. 23
  24. 24. A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms Contract for services Copyright A contract under which A legal right which stops things materials and services are being copied without provided. permission. Contract of exchange Coroner A contract to exchange goods A judicial person who or property without money investigates the cause of death being involved. when a person has suffered a sudden, violent or suspicious Contract of service death. The contract between employer and employee. Corporate body (or corporation) Contributory negligence A group of people acting Ones own carelessness together such as a club. contributing to the damage done to you or your property. Corporation tax A tax which companies pay. Conversion Exchanging one sort of Corpus* property for another or acting A body. unlawfully to deprive someone of their ownership of goods. Corpus delicti* The body of a person who has Convey been killed unlawfully; or the Transfer. facts which make up an offence. Conveyance The name of the document Costs which transfers the ownership The legal expenses of an action, of land. such as lawyers fees, witness expenses and other fees paid Conveyancing out in bringing the matter to Carrying out all the actions court. needed to transfer the ownership of a piece of land. Counsel An advocate – usually a Conviction barrister or a solicitor. Being found guilty of a criminal offence.24
  25. 25. CounterclaimCounterclaim Criminal damageMaking a claim in court against The criminal offence of causingsomeone who has already made damage to someone elsesa claim against you. property either recklessly or intentionally.CounterfeitSomething that is forged or Criminal responsibilitycopied with the intention of When someone reaches the agedeceiving. when the law says they are able to commit a criminalCounterpart offence they have reached theAn exact copy of a document. age of criminal responsibility.Coupon Cross-examineA dated piece of paper attached To question a witness for theto a bond. other side.Court of Appeal Culpa*A court which hears appeals A fault.against the decisions of othercourts. Cum dividend With dividend.CovenantA legally binding promise. Curfew Ordering someone to stay at aCreditor named place at stated times ofA person you owe money, goods the day or night.or services to. CurtilageCreditors voluntary Land around a dwelling housewinding up used by the occupants for theirIf a company is insolvent enjoyment or work.(cannot pay its debts when theyare due for payment) the Customs dutiesmembers can pass a special Duties which are charged onresolution to have the company imports of goods.wound up (liquidated).CrimeAct or omission forbidden bycriminal law. 25
  26. 26. A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms D Debt securities Debts which can be bought and Damages sold. Financial compensation Debtor ordered by a court to offset losses or suffering caused by Person who owes money, goods another persons action or or services to a creditor. inaction. Deceit Dangerous driving When one person deliberately A standard of driving which misleads a second person with falls far below that of a careful, a statement which causes the competent driver and it would second person to do something be obvious to such a driver that causes them damage. that it was dangerous to drive Decree that way. Order by a court. De facto* Decree absolute In fact or in reality. The final court order. De jure* Decree nisi* Rightfully. A provisional court order. De minimis non curat lex* Deed The law will not take account of A legal document which trifling matters. commits the person signing it De novo* to something. From the beginning, anew. Deed of arrangement Debenture A written agreement which can A document issued by a be made when a debtor is in company which acknowledges financial trouble between the that some or all of the debtor and the creditors. companys assets are security Defamation for a debt Making a statement, either Debt orally (slander) or in writing Money owed. (libel) which damages someones reputation.26
  27. 27. DefaultDefault DescendantFailing to do something which Persons born of or fromhad been agreed to. children of another.Defence DeterminationThe name for the lawyers End or finish.defending proceedings broughtagainst someone. It is also in a Detinuecivil case, a written statement by A right involving thethe defendant setting out the defendants retention offacts that the defence will rely on. property belonging to the plaintiff after the plaintiff hasDefendant demanded its return.A person defending a courtaction. Devise Gift of real property by will.Delegatus non potestdelegare* Diminished responsibilityA delegate cannot delegate. A defence sometimes used for someone charged with murderDependant that they suffered loweredSomeone who depends on powers of reasoning andsomeone else for support. judgement because of their unusual state of mind.DeponentA person who swears on oath Diocesethat a statement is correct. The area covered by a Bishops authority.DepositionA statement by a witness made Diplomatic immunityunder oath. Immunity given to certain members of foreign embassies,Depreciation such as ambassadors, forThe drop in value of an asset crimes they may havedue to wear and tear committed.Derogation Direction/directingDamaging someones rights or Judges must give juriesentitlements. instructions on points of law. This is called directing the jury. 27
  28. 28. A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms Director District Court A person appointed to help First court in the Irish judicial manage a companys affairs. system, with power to award damages up to k6,349 (as at Director of Public September 2003) in civil cases, Prosecutions and to deal with most minor Independent official, a lawyer criminal cases. who decides whether to prosecute in criminal cases and District Judge in whose name a criminal Judge of the District Court. prosecutions are taken. Dividend Disbursement Proportionate distribution of A payment made on behalf of a profits made by a company in client. the form of a money payment to shareholders. Discharge Release from. Divorce The legal end to a marriage. Disclaim/disclaimer To give up a claim or a right or Doli Incapax* refuse to take over a contract. A person under the age of 14 but older than 7 is presumed Discretionary trust to be doli incapax but this A trust in which the trustees presumption is open to can decide who will benefit rebuttal: Under the age of 7 from the trust and how much the child is incapable of they will get. committing the offence. Disposal (dispose of) Domicile Selling, transferring or giving The country where your away. permanent home is even if you Distrain/distress are living somewhere else. To seize goods as security for Domicile of choice an unpaid debt. The country in which you make Distraint your home intending it to be permanent. Seizure of personal property to compel a person to fulfil a legal obligation.28
  29. 29. Domicile of originDomicile of origin Duces tecum*The domicile a newborn child Type of witness summonshas. which requires a person to appear before a court withDomiciled specified documents.permanently based in acountry. Duress Threatening or pressurisingDominant tenement someone to do something byProperty or land that benefits force.from an easement such as aright of way. Duty A tax charged by theDonatio mortis causa* Government.Gift made by a dying personwith the intent that the personreceiving the gift shall keep it if Ethedonor dies from his existing Easementcomplaint. A right to use someone elses land such as a right of way.DoneeBeneficiary of a trust or person Emolumentgiven a power of appointment. Wages, benefits or profits received as compensation forDonor holding office or employment.Person who gives property forthe benefit of another. Enabling legislation Legislation which authorisesDrawee bodies to create detailed rulesThe person who will pay a bill to accomplish generalof exchange such as a cheque. principles set out in thatIn the case of a cheque the legislation.drawee is the bank that thecheque is drawn on. Endorsement of claim Summary of the factsDrawer supporting a legal claim.The person that has written abill of exchange, such as a Endorsementperson who has written a Writing on a document.cheque. 29
  30. 30. A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms Endowment policy Estate A type of insurance policy which All a person owns at the date of will pay out a lump sum on a their death; or the right to use fixed date in the future, or when land for a period of time. you die, if this happens earlier. Estimate Endowment A guide to do stated work for a Transfer of money or property set price. to a charitable organisation for a specific purpose. Estoppel A rule of law that a person Enduring power of attorney cannot deny something they A power of attorney which takes previously said if someone else effect in the future. A person acted on what was said and capable of dealing with their own their position was changed as a affairs at present can sign an result. enduring power of attorney. It will come into effect when they are no Et seq* longer capable of looking after and in the following pages. their own affairs. It gives Euthanasia authority to the person appointed to act for the person who signed Killing someone to end their the power of attorney. suffering. Engrossment Evidence The final version of a document Testimony of witnesses at a ready for it to be signed. trial or the production of documents or other materials to Equitable mortgage prove or disprove a set of facts. A type of mortgage Ex aequo et bono* Equity Most legal cases are decided on The principles of equity are the strict rule of law but where based on fairness. a case is decided ex aequo et bono the judge may make a Escrow decision based on what is just A deed which has been and fair in the circumstances. supplied but cannot become effective until a future date or Ex parte* until a particular Court application made without event happens. notice to the other side.30
  31. 31. Ex* dividendEx* dividend Exclusive licenceWithout dividend. A licence under which only the licence holder has any rights.Ex gratia*Describing something done or Executegiven as a favour rather than a To carry out a obligation. ExecutedEx turpi causa non oritur Describing a document whichactio* is made valid by being signed.A person may not sue for damagearising out of an illegal activity. Executive director A director who works full timeEx* works as a director of the company.Available from the factory. ExecutorExamination-in-chief Person appointed in a will toQuestioning of a witness by the deal with an who called that witness.After the examination-in-chief, Executorythe other sides lawyer may Describing something such asquestion the witnesses in a contract which has not beencross-examination. The first started may re-examine them but Executrixonly about issues raised duringthe cross-examination. A woman appointed in a will to deal with an estate.Excess of jurisdiction Exemplary damagesSomeone acting withoutauthority. Damages given as a punishment.Exchange of contract ExhibitSwapping identical contracts. Document or object shown to aExcise duty judge or jury as evidence in aA type of tax levied on certain trial.goods. Expert witnessExclusions An expert in a particular areaThe things a contract does not who is called to give an opinionprovide cover for. in a court case. 31
  32. 32. A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms Express trust False pretence Trust specifically created by a Misleading someone by settlor usually in a document deliberately making a false such as a will. statement. Extradition False representation The handing over of a criminal Lying in a statement to to the country the crime was persuade someone to enter a committed in. contract. Extraordinary general Fee simple meeting Freehold estate in land. A general meeting of the members of a company which Fee tail is not the annual general Form of tenure that can only meeting. be transferred to a lineal descendant. Extraordinary resolution A resolution for consideration by Feme covert† the members of a company at a A woman who is married. general meeting of the members. Feme sole† Extraterritoriality A woman who is not married or Operation of the laws of a state no longer married. beyond the territorial limits of Fiduciary that state. In a position of trust. F Fieri facias* A writ of fieri facias commands Factor a sheriff to take and sell Someone buying or selling for a property to pay a debt owed by commission; or an organisation a judgment debtor. which provides finance for a business by advancing money Final judgement on the value of the invoices the The courts final decision in a business sends out. civil case. False imprisonment Wrongfully keeping someone in custody.32
  33. 33. Fitness to pleadFitness to plead FosteringWhether or not the person Looking after other peoplescharged is capable of making informed decision. If,because of mental illness, a Fraudperson charged with an offence Lying or deceiving to make ais unable to understand what is profit or gain an advantage orgoing on the person may not be to cause someone else to makefit to plead guilty or not guilty. a loss or suffer a disadvantage.Fixed charge Fraudulent conveyanceA charge which provides Ownership of land beingsecurity for money lent. transferred with the intention of defrauding someone.Floating chargeA charge used to provide security Fraudulent preferencefor money lent to a company. Someone who is insolvent paying one of their creditorsForbearance while knowing there is notWhen one party to an enough money to pay theagreement does not pursue others.rights under the agreementeven though the other party Fraudulent tradinghas not kept to its terms. Running a business with the intention of defrauding itsForce majeure† creditors.An event which cannot becontrolled and which stops Free of encumbrancesduties under an agreement No one else having any rightsfrom being carried out. over property.Foreclosure FreeholdRepossessing property. Describing land that only the owner has any rights over.ForfeitureThe loss of possession of a Freeholderproperty because the tenancy Person who owns freeholdconditions have not been met property the tenant. Frustration Stopping a contract. 33
  34. 34. A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms Functus officio* Grant Having discharged his/her Proof that you are entitled to duty. deal with a dead persons estate. Futures contract A binding contract to buy or Grant of probate sell something on a date in the A Court certificate proving that future at a fixed price. the executors of a will are entitled to deal with the estate. G Gross negligence Act or omission in reckless Garnishee disregard of the consequences Person who owes a third party for the safety or property of a debt which is attached by another. court order for the benefit of a judgment creditor. Guarantee A promise by a person to repay Garnishee order a debt owed by a second A court order to a third party person if the second person who owes money to a fails to repay it. judgement debtor to pay the money to the judgement Guarantee company creditor. A company whose members only have to pay the amount General damages they have agreed to contribute Damages a court will give to if the company has to be compensate for a wrong done. wound up. General meeting Guarantor A meeting of the members of a A person or organisation that company to make decisions promises to pay a debt owed by about the company. a second person, if the second Goodwill person fails to repay it. Intangible business asset based Guardian on the reputation of a business A person appointed to look resulting from the attraction after the interests of a child or and confidence of repeat of someone who is not capable customers and connections. of looking after their own affairs.34
  35. 35. Guardian ad litem*Guardian ad litem* HireA person who has authority to To pay to borrow something formanage the person or property a period.of a child or a person undermental disability for the Hire purchasepurposes of a legal action. A form of credit which allows the purchaser to haveGuilty possession of the goods shownA courts verdict that the in the hire purchaseperson charged with a crime agreement.committed it. Holding company A company which controlsH another company usually by owning more than half of itsHabeas corpus* shares.A procedure to have a personbrought before a court to Hostile witnessenquire into the lawfulness of A witness who refuses to testifythat person’s detention. in support of the person who called him or testifies in a wayHearsay which differs from theirEvidence of which a witness previous statement.does not have direct knowledgefrom his own senses but whichis based on what others have Isaid. In pari delicto*Hearsay evidence If two parties are equally toEvidence given in court of blame for a situation a courtsomething said to the witness could refuse to provide aby another person. remedy to either of them because they are in pariHereditament delicto.Any property that canbe inherited. In personam* All legal rights are either inHigh Court personam or in rem. An inCourt above the Circuit Court personam right attaches to awith full jurisdiction to decide particular person.all matters of law and fact. 35
  36. 36. A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms In rem* Injunction In rem rights relate to property Court order that forbids a party and are not based on any to do something (prohibitory personal relationship. injunction) or compels him to do something (mandatory Incorporeal injunction). Intangible legal rights, such as copyrights or patents. Insolvent Not able to pay debts as they Incorporeal hereditament become due. Intangible property rights which may be inherited such Intangible property as easements and profits à Property which does not prendre. physically exist such as a patent. Inculpatory Incriminating. Inter alia* Among other things. Indenture Deed executed by both or all Inter partes* parties. Between the parties. Indict Inter vivos* Using legal means to officially Between living persons. accuse someone of committing an offence. Interest A legal right to use property. Indictable offence An offence which can be tried Interim order by a jury in the Circuit Court. Temporary court order of limited duration. Indictment Formal written accusation Interlineation initiating the trial of a criminal Addition to a document after it offence before a jury in the has been signed. Circuit Court Interlocutory injunction the Central Criminal Court, the High Court or the Special An injunction which lasts only Criminal Court. until the end of the trial during which the order was sought.36
  37. 37. Interlocutory judgementInterlocutory judgementA provisional judgement. J Joinder of partiesInterrogatories Uniting parties as plaintiffs orFormal questions in a civil case defendents in a court case.from one side which the otherside must answer under oath. Joint and several liability Liability of more than oneIntestacy person, under which each mayWhen someone dies without be sued for the entire amountleaving a will. of damages due by all.Intestate Joint lives policyPerson who dies without A life assurance policy on moremaking a will. than one persons life.Intimidation Joint tenancyThreatening or frightening Two or more people havingsomeone into doing something. identical shares in land.Invitation to treat Joint willAn offer to receive an offer. A single will which two or moreIOU people make to cover all their estates.A written confirmation of adebt signed by the debtor Joyridingwhich implies an undertaking Stealing a vehicle and thento pay the sum owed at some using it.future date. JudgeIpso facto* A person whose job is toBy the mere fact. adjudicate in court cases. SinceIssue 2002 Solicitors and Barristers can be appointed as judges to allThe matter to be decided in a the courts in Ireland (Supreme,court action. High, Circuit and District).Issued share capital Judge advocateShare capital which has been A lawyer who advises a militaryallocated to shareholders who court which is trying anhave asked for shares. offence. 37
  38. 38. A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms Judge Advocate General Judicial precedent A lawyer who is in charge of The practice of lower courts military justice. following the decisions of higher courts. Judge in chambers A hearing by a Judge which is Judicial review not held in open court. Proceedings in which a court is asked to rule on a decision of Judgement an administrative body or A decision by a court. quasi-judicial tribunal. Judgement creditor Judicial separation A person who is owed money A court order that two married who has been to court and people should live apart. obtained a judgement for the money owed. Junior barrister A barrister who is not a Senior Judgement debtor Counsel. A person who owes the money a court judgement says is Junior counsel owed. Barrister who is not a Senior Counsel. Judgement in default Getting a judgement because a Jurat† person failed to do something. Memorandum at end of affidavit stating where and Judgment when it was sworn followed by Verdict pronounced by a court the signature and description of law. of person before whom it was Judicial discretion sworn. A degree of flexibility about the Jurisdiction way courts do things. The territory in which a court Judicial immunity can operate; or the power it has to deal with particular cases or Immunity that a judge has the power it has to issue orders. from being sued for damages when acting as a judge. Juror One of the people who are acting as a jury.38
  39. 39. JuryJury Knock for knockA group of people, usually 12, An agreement betweenwho review all the evidence in a insurance companies that theycourt case and then come to a will pay for their ownverdict. policyholders losses regardless of who was to blame.Jury serviceServing on a jury. Know-how Expertise.Just and equitable winding upA winding up ordered becausefairness cannot be achieved for Lall the members of a company. LandJustification G The buildings built on theClaiming that a defamatory land;statement is true. G the subsoil; G the airspace above the landJuvenile offender necessary for ordinary use ofA person aged between 7 and the land; and17 who has committed a G property fixed to the land.criminal offence. Landlord Owner of a building or landK who leases the land, building orKidnap part of it to another person who is called the tenant or lessee.To take someone away by forceagainst their will. LawsuitKin A claim made in a court of law.Relationship by blood. Lay litigantKings Inns Non-lawyer who brings a legal action without the assistance ofThe body responsible for a barrister or solicitor.educating and training ofbarristers in Ireland. Lease A contract between the owner of a property and a tenant, giving the tenant sole use of the property for an agreed time. 39
  40. 40. A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms Leasehold Letter of credit Property held by a tenant with A letter one bank sends to a a lease. second bank asking them to pay money to a named person. Legacy A gift left to someone in a will Letters of administration not including land. An authority the High Court gives to a person to deal with a Legal Aid Scheme dead persons estate. It is given A scheme for paying legal costs when someone dies intestate. out of public funds for people who cannot afford to pay for Liabilities them. The debts that a person or organisation owes. Legal Aid Government scheme providing Liability advice or assistance from a A debt or obligation. Solicitor or Barrister free or at a reduced rate. Libel A false statement made in Legal professional privilege writing or in some other Confidential communications permanent record. between a lawyer and client may not be revealed in court Licence unless the client waives the An authority to do something. privilege. The communications Licensee must relate to court proceedings or intended The holder of a licence to do litigation. something. Legatee Lien The person who receives a The right to keep possession of legacy. something owned by someone who owes a debt until the debt Lessee has been settled. The person a property has been Life assurance policy leased to. (or life insurance policy) Lessor A contract between the The person who lets a property policyholder and the insurance by lease. company.40
  41. 41. Life assuredLife assured LiquidationThe person whose life is Sale of all the assets of aassured by a life assurance company or partnership by apolicy. liquidator and use of the proceeds to pay off creditors.Life imprisonmentA sentence given to a criminal Liquidatorto be imprisoned for the rest of The person appointed to windtheir life. up a company.Life interest Lis pendens*An interest which will pass to Registration of a pending actionsomeone else when the present against the owner of land.owner dies. LitigantLife tenant A person involved in a lawsuit.Someone entitled to useproperty for their life. Litigation Taking legal action through theLife tenant courts.Beneficiary of a life estate. Loan capitalLimitation of actions Money borrowed by a person,The Statute of Limitations sets usually a company.down times within whichproceedings must be brought. Loan creditor A person or organisation whichLimited company has lent money.A company which limits howmuch its members will have to Locus in quo*pay if the company is wound up. The place where something took place.Lineal descendantDirect descendant, the child of Locus standi*its parents. Persons right to take an action or be heard by a court.Liquidated damagesDamages agreed beforehand bythe parties to a contract in caseone of them should later breakthe terms of the contract. 41
  42. 42. A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms M Mandamus* High Court order commanding Maintenance an individual, organisation, Money paid to support a administrative tribunal or court spouse (husband or wife) and to perform a certain action children. usually to correct an earlier action or failure to fulfil some Majority duty. The age when a person gains full legal rights and responsibilities. Mandate In Ireland it is when a person An authority to act given by becomes 18 years old. one party to another. Mala fides* Manslaughter Bad faith. Killing someone illegally which is not murder. Male issue Male descendants of men. Market overt† A lawful market in which as Malfeasance long as someone buying goods An unlawful act. is not aware that they do not belong to the seller the buyer Malice will get a good title to the Intending to do something goods. which is against the law. Martial law Malicious falsehood Government of a country by A written or spoken lie told to the military. harm somebody and which does do harm. Material facts Facts which are a key part of a Malicious prosecution defence or a claim. A prosecution which is brought unreasonably. Matricide The killing of a mother by her son or daughter. Matrimonial home The house that a husband and wife live in as a married couple.42
  43. 43. MediationMediation Messuage†Form of alternative dispute A house together with its landresolution involving an agreed and outbuildings.mediator acting as a facilitatorto help the parties negotiate an Minoragreement. A person under the age of 18 years.Memorandum and Articlesof Association MinorityThe memorandum gives Under the age of full legaldetails of: rights and responsibilities.G a companys name,G objects and MinutesG share capital. A record of the meetings heldG the limits of the shareholders by members, directors and liability if the company has to others of organisations of be wound up. companies.The articles set out the Misadventure members rights and the An unexpected accident which directors powers. happens while lawfully doingMens rea* something.Guilty mind. Most crimes Miscarriage of justicerequire proof of guilty intention The court system failing to givebefore a person can be justice to a person.convicted. MisconductMercantile law Deliberately doing somethingLaw dealing with commerce. which is against the law orMerchantable quality which is wrong.The assumption in the law that Misdirectiongoods sold by a business will A judge instructing a jurybe fit for their purpose. wrongly.Mesne Rates MisfeasanceIncome lost by an owner when Improperly doing somethingproperty is occupied without which a person has a legalpermission. right to do. 43
  44. 44. A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms Misjoinder Moratorium When a person has been An agreement not to take wrongly named as a party to a action for an agreed period law suit a court will usually of time. amend the proceedings to strike out the name of the Mortgage misjoined party. Using property as security for a debt. Misrepresentation A material statement which Mortgagee induces a party to enter into a The lender of the money which contract. is secured by a mortgage. Mistrial Mortgagor A trial that has been made The person who borrows the invalid. money to buy a property. Mitigation Motive Facts which while not negating Reason for a person doing an offence or wrongful action something. tend to show that the defendant Muniments may have had some excuse for acting the way he did. Documents which are evidence of a right to something. Moiety One half, fifty percent. N Molest/Molestation Natural justice Behaviour by a person which The requirement for application annoys or greatly troubles of principles of fairness and another person. justice for example audi Money laundering alteram partem* (hear the other Making money from crime and side). then passing it through a business to make it appear legitimate.44
  45. 45. Natural personNatural person Non est factum*Human being with legal and Not his deed.constitutional rights andduties, including the right to: NondisclosureG life, The failure by one side to aG information, contract to reveal a fact to theG travel, other side that would influenceG a good name, their decision to go ahead withG earn a living, the contract.G sue and be sued,G sign contracts, Non-exclusive licenceG receive gifts, and An agreement giving someone theG appear in court either by right to use something but which himself or through a lawyer. does not prevent other people being given similar agreements.Naturalisation NonfeasanceGiving a citizen of one countrycitizenship of another. Not doing something that one is bound to do by law.Negligence Non-joinderCarelessness. If a person who should haveNegligent been a party to legalLacking proper care to do a proceedings has been omittedduty properly. the court may amend the pleadings to include the non-Negotiable instrument joined party.A document which is signedand is an instruction to pay an Not guiltyamount of money. A courts verdict that the person charged with a crimeNemo jude in sua causa* did not commit it.Nobody may be a judge in hisown case. Not negotiable Cannot be transferred.Next of kinPersons nearest blood relation. Notary A lawyer, usually a solicitor,Nolle prosequi* who is authorised to certifyRecorded decision not to documents, take affidavits andprosecute further. swear oaths. 45
  46. 46. A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms Notice Obligee A warning of something which Someone who under a contract is about to happen. receives money or has something done. Notice to quit A notice to end a tenancy on a Obligor stated date. Someone who is bound by a contract to pay money or do Novation something. Replacing an existing agreement with a new one. Occupational pension scheme Nudum pactum* A pension scheme organised by An empty agreement. an employer for its employees. Nuisance Occupier Doing something that harms The person who is in control of other peoples rights. a piece of land such as a tenant. O Offensive weapon Oath An object that is intended to physically injure someone. Swearing the truth of a statement. Offer Obiter dicta* A promise to do something or not to do something. By the way. Observations by a judge on law or facts not Offeree specifically before the court or The person who receives a not necessary to decide an issue. legally binding offer. Objects clause Offeror A clause which forms part of a The person who makes a legally companys Memorandum of binding offer. Association It sets out the purposes the company was Official secret formed for. Information which the Government classifies as Obligation confidential. A legal duty to do something.46