Publication - Advice and guidance

Information and help after rape and sexual assault

Published: 22 Feb 2016
Part of:
Equality and rights, Law and order
ISBN:
9781785449895

Information pack for women and men over 16 who have been raped or sexually assaulted.

134 page PDF

323.7 kB

134 page PDF

323.7 kB

Contents
Information and help after rape and sexual assault
Section 5: Meanings and court procedures

134 page PDF

323.7 kB

Section 5: Meanings and court procedures

  • Meanings
  • Court procedures
    • Sheriff and Jury
    • High Court

Meanings

This section gives the meanings of some of the words which are used in this pack or which you might hear during an investigation or trial. They are listed in alphabetical order. Meanings are given for all words in bold.

Accused: the person charged with a crime.

Adjournment: break in court proceedings. This may be for lunch, overnight or to a completely new date.

Advocate Depute ( AD): advocate or senior Procurator Fiscal who works only for the prosecution and prosecutes only in the High Court.

Affirmation: promise to tell the truth. Used instead of the oath by a witness who has no religious belief, or has religious beliefs that prevent them taking the oath.

Appeal: challenge to the accused's conviction and/or sentence. The prosecution can only appeal against an unduly lenient sentence.

Appear on petition: accused's preliminary (first) appearances in court. These are held in private. The accused will be granted bail or remanded in custody.

Bail: when the accused is released from custody by a court. The accused has to agree to certain conditions before they are released. See also undertaking.

Charge (to the jury): the judge's legal direction to a jury in matters of law and evidence before they decide on their verdict.

Citation: formal letter from the Procurator Fiscal which tells a witness to attend court to give evidence at a trial. It says where the court is, and the date and time the witness has to be there.

Clerk of Court: assists the judge and is responsible for the smooth running of the court.

Committal for further examination ( CFE): at the end of the accused's first court appearance they will either be granted bail or remanded in custody until full committal for trial.

Corroboration: an accused cannot be convicted of a crime unless there is evidence from at least two independent sources that the crime was committed and that the accused was responsible for it.

Counsel: the advocate who acts for either the prosecution or the accused (a different advocate acts for each).

Court familiarisation visit: chance for witness to see round a court before the trial.

Crown Counsel: senior prosecutors (also called Advocates Depute) who decide whether a criminal prosecution should take place against whom and on what charges.

Custody: person is kept in prison before a court appearance, unless they are in police custody, when they are kept in a police cell.

DNA: Deoxyribonucleic Acid - substance found in all cells of the human body including body fluids such as blood. Samples of DNA may provide evidence (for example of the identity of the attacker).

Forensic evidence: the scientific evidence collected from a victim, a crime scene and others, such as fingerprints and DNA . Samples may be gathered from a victim by 'forensic examination'.

Full committal ( FC): The second appearance by the accused in court (if they were remanded at committal for further examination). It takes place in private. It is held to confirm that the accused should be brought to trial. The accused will be granted bail or remanded in custody.

Hearing: any time when part of the trial takes place in a court. There can be several hearings in the course of a trial.

Indictment: the document that sets out the charge(s) in writing. It is given to the accused so that they know what they are accused of.

Judge: presides over cases heard in the High Court. In a Sheriff Court, the judge is called a sheriff. The judge oversees the trial and decides on the sentence.

Jury: 15 members of the public, chosen randomly, who listen to the evidence and decide on the verdict.

Law Officers: the most senior legal figures - the Lord Advocate and the Solicitor General.

Licence: when an offender is released from prison before the end of their sentence, the licence sets out the conditions of behaviour which they must meet.

Lord Advocate: Scotland's senior prosecutor with overall responsibility for prosecuting crime.

Macer: officer of court who attends to the judge and assists with witnesses and productions in the trial.

Oath: promise to tell the truth by raising your right hand and swearing 'by almighty God'. See also affirmation.

Parole: when an offender is let out of prison before the end of the sentence. The release is subject to licence. The offender is still under supervision in the community.

Petition: the first document which sets out the charge(s) against the accused and starts the formal court process.

Plea: the accused's answer to the charge(s). There is no trial if they plead guilty.

Plea in mitigation: any factors that the accused's counsel thinks should be taken into account before the judge passes sentence.

Precognition investigation: the process of getting information from witnesses to find out what they know about a crime. This usually involves interviewing witnesses and taking a statement. It is done by the prosecution ( Procurator Fiscal or precognition officer) and may also be done by the defence (solicitor or precognition agent).

Preliminary Hearing: first time part of the trial is heard in court (see Hearing).

Proceedings: general term for the court process.

Procurator Fiscal ( PF or fiscal): a qualified lawyer who is the public official responsible for investigating rape and sexual assault on behalf of the Crown.

Productions: documents shown as evidence in court during a trial. Other items such as clothing are called 'labels'.

Rape, attempted rape and assault with intent to rape: 'rape' is when a man uses his penis to penetrate someone's vagina, anus or mouth without their consent (the person did not agree to it). The victim of the offence can be a woman or man.

'Attempted rape' is when a man tries to rape someone but does not manage to.

'Assault with intent to rape' is when a man intends to rape someone and assaults them but his conduct does not amount to a charge of attempted rape.

'Sexual assault by penetration' and 'sexual assault': 'sexual assault by penetration' is when the attacker sexually penetrates the vagina or anus of the victim without their consent. The penetration could involve a part of the attacker's body (for example a finger) or an object (for example a bottle or a vibrator).

The attacker might also use his penis. There is an overlap between the offences of 'rape' and 'sexual assault by penetration'. This is to cover cases where the victim is not sure if they were penetrated by a penis, for example, because they were blindfolded at the time.

The offence of 'sexual assault' makes it a crime for the attacker to do any of the following without the victim's consent and any reasonable belief that they consented:

  • Sexually penetrate the vagina, anus or mouth
  • Sexually touch the victim
  • Engage in any other form of sexual activity which results in physical contact with the victim, directly, through clothing, with a part of the body or an object
  • Ejaculate semen onto the victim or urinate or emit saliva onto the victim sexually

There are various other offences with which someone might be charged including:

  • Sexual coercion (intended mainly to cover situations where someone forces someone to have sex with another person)
  • Offences concerning unlawful sexual activity with children under 16
  • Sexual abuse of trust involving children: any sexual activity by someone over 18 with someone under 18 to whom the attacker is in a position of trust, for example a carer
  • Sexual abuse of trust involving mentally disordered persons: any sexual activity with someone who suffers from a mental disorder and to whom the attacker is in a position of trust
  • Administering a substance (giving someone alcohol or drugs) for sexual purposes
  • Incest: sexual intercourse betw√•een people related to one another (as specified by law)
  • Communicating indecently
  • Sexual exposure
  • Voyeurism

Ravish: rape.

Remand or remanded in custody: when a person is kept a police cell or prison before a court appearance.

Sentence: the punishment imposed on the accused such as time in prison.

Sentence discount: when the judge reduces the length of sentence because the accused has pleaded guilty. The discount should be stated in court and should not be more than a third of the maximum available sentence.

Sheriff: judge in the Sheriff Court.

Solemn procedure: when a trial takes place in front of a judge and jury.

Special measure: a form of support which may be considered for a witness to help them give evidence.

Summary procedure: when a trial takes place in front of a judge and no jury.

Supervision: the prisoner is released on a licence with specific conditions attached and is supervised by the local authority criminal justice services.

Undertaking: often called police bail. After the police arrest someone they may release them from the police station if the person signs a document undertaking (promising) to come to court on the date the police have given them. They must agree to other conditions such as not committing any other crimes.

Victim Statement: written statement which allows victims or, in some cases, their relatives to tell the court how the crime affected them.

Verdict: the decision made by the jury. The options are guilty, not guilty or not proven.

Warrant: a court document which allows the police to take certain action such as to arrest someone or search premises.

Witness: person who gives evidence to the court.

Court procedures

Sheriff and Jury

Cases are heard in the Sheriff Court by a Sheriff (judge) and jury. The jury is made up of 15 members of the public drawn randomly from the community.

The Sheriff and some of the lawyers wear wigs and gowns.

A hearing is held so that the accused can state their plea of ' guilty' or ' not guilty'.

If the accused pleads guilty, the sheriff may sentence the accused then or may choose to sentence at a later date.

If the accused pleads not guilty, the case will go to trial during a 'sheriff and jury sitting'. This is a set time when several trials will be timetabled.

At the trial, the evidence for the prosecution is presented by the Procurator Fiscal (fiscal). The accused has a defence lawyer to speak for them.

Both sides may call witnesses to give evidence. There may be other evidence such as photos and clothing. The prosecution, the defence and the sheriff can question witnesses.

After the evidence has been presented, the fiscal and the defence lawyer give short speeches which sum up the evidence. It is up to the prosecution to prove the case 'beyond reasonable doubt'. The sheriff then speaks to the jury on matters of law. The speeches are to help the jury reach a decision. The jury then decides the verdict.

If the verdict is guilty, the sheriff decides the sentence. They may choose to sentence then or at a later date. If the sheriff thinks the accused should receive a higher sentence than the Sheriff Court can impose, they may refer the accused to the High Court for sentencing.

People in court

The following people will be in court. Only three of them take part in the trial: the Sheriff, the Procurator Fiscal and the Defence Lawyer.

Accused: the person charged with the offence

Procurator Fiscal: represents the prosecution

Defence Lawyer: acts on behalf of the accused

Sheriff: acts as a 'judge' and decides on any sentence

Jury: 15 members of the public who decide the verdict

Clerk of Court: assists the sheriff and responsible for the smooth running of the court

Court Official: calls each witness into the court when it is their turn to give evidence

Other people: these include police officers, members of the public and journalists

For more information see Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service booklet: Being a Witness in the Sheriff and Jury Court which is available at www.crownoffice.gov.uk.

High Court

Cases in the High Court are heard by a judge and jury. The jury is made up of 15 members of the public drawn randomly from the community.

The judge and advocates can wear wigs and gowns.

If the accused pleads guilty the judge may sentence then or may choose to sentence at a later date.

If the accused pleads not guilty, the case will go to trial. This will be timetabled during a High Court sitting.

At the trial, the person who speaks for the prosecution and presents the evidence is the Advocate Depute.

The accused has their own lawyer and advocate.

Both sides may call witnesses to give evidence. There may be other evidence such as photos and clothing. The prosecution, the defence and the judge can question witnesses.

After the evidence has been presented, prosecution and the defence give short speeches which sum up the evidence. It is up to the prosecution to prove the case 'beyond reasonable doubt'. The judge then speaks to the jury on matters of law. The speeches are to help the jury reach a decision. The jury then decides the verdict.

If the verdict is guilty, the judge decides the sentence. They may choose to sentence then or at a later date.

People in court

The following people will be in court. Only three of them take part in the trial: the Judge, the Advocate Depute and the Defence Advocate.

Accused: the person charged with the offence

Advocate Depute: represents the prosecution

Defence Advocate: Junior Counsel or Queens Counsel ( QC) represents the accused

Defence Solicitor: lawyer for the accused

Judge: oversees the trial and decides on sentence

Clerk of Court: assists the judge and is responsible for the smooth running of the court

Macer: escorts witnesses and jury to and from the courtroom; provides trial with photos, clothing and so on

Court Officer: police officer who does not participate in the trial but makes sure that things are in order in the court

Jury: 15 members of the general public who decide on the verdict

Other people: these include police officers, members of the public and journalists

For more information see Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service booklet: Being a Witness in the High Court which is available at www.crownoffice.gov.uk.


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