Meaning of legal terms used in this website and at court
Court terms explained
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Someone who identifies as Aboriginal.
(In a child protection case) Visit of or communication by a person to a child.
A sentencing order in which a charge is dismissed upon a child (and if required, a parent) giving an undertaking. Non-compliance with the undertaking may result in a re-sentence.
Act (Act of parliament)
A law passed by a legislature and given Royal assent.
A person charged with a criminal offence.
Postpone; put off the hearing of a case to a later time.
Affected family member
A person who is the subject of an application for an intervention order under the Family Violence Intervention Orders Act 2008.
A person who is the subject of an application for an intervention order under the Personal Safety Intervention Orders Act 2010.
A written statement made by a person who has sworn or affirmed before a person authorised to administer the oath that the contents of the statement are true and correct.
In the absence of positive evidence as to the age of a child, age means apparent age.
Age of criminal responsibility
The age at or above which a person can be charged by police with committing a criminal offence. In Victoria, the age of criminal responsibility is 10 years. A person under 10 cannot be charged by police with committing an offence.
The past history of a person, often used in the sense of their prior criminal history.
A hearing in a higher court to determine whether or not a judgment of a lower court is correct.
The taking of a child into custody either by a police officer or a protective worker.
A tie or bond of affection that develops between a child and the person or persons who care for the child or are otherwise involved with the child.
The right to be released from custody granted to a person who has been arrested and charged with a criminal offence on the condition that they return to court at some specified time together with any other conditions considered appropriate. May be granted or refused by a court, a bail justice or a police officer.
A person appointed by the Attorney-General to make decisions out of court hours about whether a person charged with an offence should be remanded in custody or released on bail. Bail justices also make decisions relating to the short-term residential placement of children deemed to be at risk by Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH) child protection workers. Bail justices are employed in a voluntary capacity.
A failure by a person to comply with a court order.
Care (of a child)
(In a child protection case) Daily care and control of a child, whether or not involving custody of the child.
A statement of all decisions concerning the child made by the Secretary after the making of an order by the Family Division of the Children's Court in respect of the child.
A formal caution issued to a young offender by a senior police officer in the presence of a parent or guardian following which no court proceedings are brought.
A document prepared by an informant and served on an accused detailing an alleged offence by the accused.
Child (Criminal Division)
A person who at the time of commission of an alleged offence was aged between 10 and 17 inclusive but does not include any person who had turned 19 at the time of being brought before the Court.
Child (Family Division)
A person who is under the age of 17 or, if a protection order is in force in relation to him or her, is under the age of 18.
The non-accidental misuse of power by adults over children involving an act or failure to act which has endangered or impaired or is likely to endanger or impair a child's physical or emotional health and/or development. Generally regarded as falling into four overlapping categories:
- physical abuse;
- sexual abuse;
- emotional/psychological abuse;
The branch of the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH) which is responsible for investigating allegations that a child or young person is at risk of significant harm and with providing supervision and/or services for children and young persons considered or found to be in need of protection.
Children's Court Clinic
An independent body within the Department of Justice whose primary function is to make clinical (psychological and/or psychiatric) assessments of children and families and to submit reports to Victorian Children's Courts in both child protection and criminal cases.
Children's Court Clinic Drug Program
A drug diversion program auspiced and conducted by the Children's Court Clinic to provide clinical drug assessment and referral to drug treatment for a young person charged with a criminal offence.
A court hearing in which the strength of the prosecution case is tested to determine whether there is sufficient evidence for an accused to be required to stand trial in a higher court for an indictable offence. The test is "whether the evidence is of sufficient weight to support a conviction".
Common law undertaking
A promise made to the Court which is not based on any Act or Regulation.
A service operated or approved by the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH) to meet the needs of children requiring protection, care or accommodation.
The taking of an intimate or non-intimate sample (for example, saliva) from or the conduct of a physical examination of a person charged with or found guilty of a criminal offence.
Obligations included in an order with which parent, child and/or other person must comply.
A court hearing in which the parties disagree or where an accused person pleads not guilty.
A court hearing in the Criminal Division at which the presiding judicial officer attempts to resolve the issues in dispute and, if resolution is not achieved, ensures that the issues are clearly identified, the witnesses the parties wish to call are available and that the estimated length of the contest is accurate.
This has a number of different meanings. The most common one relates to the stigma attached to a sentence. A sentence can be imposed by a judge or magistrate "with conviction" or "without conviction". A sentence "with conviction" involves greater condemnation of the defendant than one "without conviction".
An order that a party (or occasionally another person) pay some or all of the legal costs of another party.
The right to have daily care and control of a child, and the right and responsibility to make decisions concerning the daily care and control of a child.
Care by Secretary order
A protection order which grants parental responsibility of a child to the Secretary of the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH) and is in force for a period of two years, unless the child turns 18 or marries (whichever occurs first).
Deferral of sentencing
When sentencing a young person is put off until a later date (not more than four months away), usually to allow certain things to be done and the young person's behaviour to be monitored.
Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH)
The Victorian government department responsible, among other things, for Child Protection.
A court hearing in the Family Division at which the presiding judicial officer attempts to resolve the issues in dispute and, if resolution is not achieved, ensures that the issues are clearly identified, the witnesses the parties wish to call are available and that the estimated length of the contest is accurate.
Dispute resolution conference/New model conference
A mediation held subject to guidelines issued by the Court.
A child aged between 10 and 13 who did not understand that their offence against the criminal law was not "seriously wrong" is said to be "doli incapax" and cannot be found guilty of the offence.
Exceptional (in context of 'exceptional circumstances')
Of the nature of, or forming an exception, unusual, out of the ordinary, special.
A court has "exclusive jurisdiction" if it is the only court which can deal with a particular type of case.
Ex tempore judgment
A judgment which is given immediately or shortly after a case is concluded. See judgment below. An ex tempore judgment is usually oral rather than written.
An order continuing the operation of a supervision order, a supervised custody order, custody to Secretary order or a guardianship to Secretary order.
A sentencing order requiring a child or young person to pay a sum of money; includes any penalties, forfeitures, sums of money and costs ordered to be paid by the person.
The taking of a sample from any part of the body of a person charged with or found guilty of a criminal offence (whether an intimate or a non-intimate sample or any other type of sample) or the conduct of any procedure on or physical examination of the body but does not including the taking of a fingerprint.
Good behaviour bond
A sentencing order in which a charge is adjourned upon a child signing a promise to be of good behaviour and to comply with any special conditions imposed by the Court. Non-compliance with a bond may result in a re-sentence.
A formal meeting conducted by a mediator and attended by a young offender, their parent or guardian, and persons affected by the young person's offending. The underlying philosophy is "restorative justice".
Responsibility for the long-term welfare of a child.
Offences are divided into two main categories: indictable and summary. Indictable offences are generally more serious and are offences which can be tried on indictment, that is, they can be heard by a judge and jury in the Supreme Court or the County Court. However, many indictable offences can be heard in the Magistrates’ Court by a magistrate alone or in the Children’s Court by the President (a County Court judge) or a magistrate. Indictable offences used to be called ‘felonies’.
An Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person.
Police officer who laid charges against a person in a particular case.
Term no longer used in Victoria. Now called ‘charges’.
Interim accommodation order
A temporary order which controls where a child lives pending the final determination by the Court of an application in the Family Division.
Interim protection order
A temporary order of up to three months' duration which the Children's Court may make upon finding a child to be in need of protection.
A court order which imposes prohibitions or restrictions on one person to regulate the conduct of that person towards another person.
The decision in a particular case and the reasons that the judicial officer came to that decision.
This has two definitions:
- the legal power which a particular court possesses, for example, power to hear and determine child protection applications;
- the area over which the court's legal power extends, for example, the State of Victoria.
Representation of a person by a legally qualified representative (solicitor or barrister) in court proceedings.
A judicial officer who hears cases in the Magistrates' Court (the lowest level of court in Victoria) and in the Children's Court.
A court hearing at which witnesses are generally not called and each party is given an opportunity to say in summary what should happen to the case. If the parties are not in complete agreement, the case is adjourned for mediation or contest.
A sentencing order in which a charge is dismissed upon a child (and if required, a parent) giving an undertaking. Non-compliance with such undertaking has no consequences.
(In a child protection case) An application served on a parent or child asking them to come to court at a later date without the child having been taken into custody. Used in contradistinction to 'apprehension.
A report of suspected child abuse made by a person to Child Protection (of the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing). Certain professionals (including police, teachers, childcare workers) are mandated (that is, obliged by law) to report suspected child abuse.
Court proceedings which are open to the public.
Defined in very broad terms in the Children, Youth and Families Act as including:
- the father or mother of the child
- the spouse of the father or mother of the child
- the domestic partner of the father or mother of the child
- a person who has custody of the child; or a person registered as, acknowledged as, or declared by a court to be the father or mother of the child.
"Like ought be treated alike".
Release by the Youth Parole Board of a child or young person from detention in a youth justice centre or youth residential centre prior to the completion of their sentence and subject to supervision by Youth Justice.
Permanent care order
An order that grants a person (other than a parent or the Secretary) custody and guardianship of a child. Similar to an adoption.
A report prepared by Youth Justice or the Children's Court Clinic to assist the Court in the sentencing of a child or young person found guilty of an offence.
President of the Children's Court
The chief judicial officer of the Children's Court of Victoria. A judge of the County Court appointed as President by the Governor in Council.
A sentencing order by which for a specified period a child or young person is supervised by a probation officer and may be required to comply with special conditions imposed by the Court. The probation officer may be either a paid employee of Youth Justice or an honorary probation officer.
A person entitled to file with the Children's Court a protection application in respect of a child whom he or she believes on reasonable grounds to be in need of protection.
The court venue where a legal matter should be heard. This can be a Children's Court venue that is nearest to:
- the child’s place of residence; or
- the place where the subject matter arose (for Family Division cases) or where the alleged offence was committed (for Criminal Division cases).
An application made to the Court for a finding that a child is in need of protection from actual or likely abuse.
One of eight types of court orders set out in s.275(1) of the Children, Youth and Families Act which the Children's Court may make upon finding a child to be in need of protection.
Record of interview
A formal interview of an accused by an informant in relation to one or more charges laid by the informant. It is usually an audio recording. Sometimes it may be an audio-video recording.
Delegated legislation made by the Governor in Council pursuant to an Act of Parliament.
A person who is arrested and charged with a criminal offence but not released on bail is said to be "remanded in custody".
Remote witness facility
An audio-visual link between a courtroom and some other place which enables a witness to give evidence without being in the courtroom. This is often used to enable evidence to be given by a victim without being in the same room as the alleged perpetrator.
A person against whom an intervention order has been made (or against whom an application for an intervention order has been made).
An order requiring a child or young person found guilty of a criminal offence to pay a sum of money to the victim of the offence to try to restore the victim to his or her pre-offence position.
Return of a child to the care of a parent.
Rules (Children's Court Rules)
Rules made by the Children’s Court President together with two or more magistrates to govern various matters relating to the practice and procedure of the Court.
Secure welfare service
A community service that has lock-up facilities for young people who the Children’s Court or Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH) staff think will seriously hurt themselves or are in substantial and immediate danger of harm from something or someone else.
The Secretary of a Government department, for example, Secretary of Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH) .
Any order made by the Criminal Division of the Children's Court following a finding of guilt.
Provision of an application or other document by one party to another party in the case.
Where the care of a child is shared between attachment figures in different households.
To demonstrate why a person's remand in custody is not justified.
Standard of proof
The test which must be applied by a judicial officer in making findings in a case. In a Family Division case the standard is "balance of probabilities", that is, evaluating which of two or more conflicting allegations is more probable. In the summary hearing of a case in the Criminal Division, the Court must be satisfied of the child's guilt "beyond reasonable doubt".
The right of a person who has a "direct interest" in a child protection case to participate as a party in the hearing of the case.
A statement in writing, other than an affidavit, which contains an acknowledgment by the person making it that it is true and correct and which is signed by the person making it in the presence of a person authorised to witness the signing of a statutory declaration.
A case in which the Child Protection Division at the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH) issues a protection application in respect of a child. Used in contradistinction to voluntary intervention.
A charge or an application which is withdrawn is said to be "struck out" of the court list.
Offences are divided into two main categories according to seriousness. Summary offences are generally but not always of a more minor nature and are heard in the Magistrates’ Court by a magistrate alone or in the Children’s Court by the President (a County Court judge) or a magistrate. Summary offences used to be called misdemeanours.
Torres Strait Islander person
Someone who identifies as Torres Strait Islander.
A promise made to the Court. May either be oral or in writing.
(In a child protection case) A temporary residence for the child whose address is not disclosed to the parents.
An audio-visual recording made by a police officer which records a conversation between a police officer and a young person (aged under 18 years) who is the alleged victim of a sexual offence, an assault or a threat of injury.
An alteration (usually of conditions) of a court order.
Victim Impact Statement
Oral or written statement made by a victim of crime which may be taken into account by a magistrate or judge when determining sentence.
An audio-visual link between a courtroom and some other place (sometimes another court) which enables those participating in the court process to be in two different locations.
Viva voce evidence
Spoken evidence (as opposed to evidence by statement or affidavit).
A case in which the Child Protection Division at the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH) works voluntarily with a family without bringing the case to court. Used in contra-distinction to statutory intervention.
An authorisation, generally issued by a judicial officer and directed to a person in authority. Often this is an authority to take a person into custody and bring the person before the Court. Examples include-
- Safe Custody Warrant - issued in the case of a child alleged to be in need of protection or in respect of whom a court order is alleged to have been breached;
- Warrant to Arrest - issued in the case of a child who has failed to attend the hearing of a criminal charge.
Youth attendance order
A sentencing order by which a child or young person aged between 15 and 17 is required for a specified period to attend a youth attendance project for a maximum of 10 hours per week (a maximum of three attendances) of which no more than four hours may be spent in community service activities.
The branch of the Department of Justice and Community Safety which is responsible for providing services for young offenders.
Youth residential centre order
A sentencing order by which a child or young person aged between 10 and 14 is sentenced to be detained in a youth residential centre for a specified period.
Youth supervision order
A sentencing order by which a child or young person is supervised by a probation officer and may be required to comply with special conditions imposed by the Court. The level of supervision is generally higher than that involved with a probation order for a specified period.
Youth justice centre order
A sentencing order by which a child or young person aged between 15 and 21 is sentenced to be detained in a youth justice centre for a specified period.