When a person is guilty of a charge, the judge can decide to 'discharge' them (unless the sentence for the offence is fixed by law). This means that no punishment is given. In solemn (more serious) cases, a conviction is recorded. In summary (less serious) cases, no conviction is recorded, however, for some purposes (for example if the person is convicted of another crime in the future), it may be regarded as a previous conviction. An absolute discharge is only given in exceptional circumstances. Reasons for an absolute discharge can include, for example, that the crime is very minor, that the offender has been previously of good character, or that the offender is very young or old.
The accused is a person or group of people charged with (accused of) criminal offences by a prosecutor.
An acquittal is when an accused person is found not guilty of an offence or when the case against an accused is found not proven. Both result in the accused being cleared of the offence.
An admonition is where an accused person found guilty of a crime is warned not to offend again. It is recorded as a conviction and appears on their criminal record. No other penalty is given.
An advocate is a lawyer who can defend accused people in all Scottish courts cases, but they are more often seen at the High Court. Advocates are also known as counsel.
An advocate depute is an experienced prosecutor who appears in the High Court where the more serious cases are heard.
The Advocate General is a UK Government minister and the UK Government's chief legal adviser on Scots law.
Age of criminal prosecution
This is the age children can be prosecuted. In Scotland it is 12. Children under the age of 16 are normally dealt with by the Children’s Reporter and Children’s Hearing System. Where an offence is serious, a child over 12 can be dealt with in court.
Age of criminal responsibility
The age of criminal responsibility in Scotland was raised from 8 to 12 years old in November 2019. This means children under the age of 12 cannot be arrested for, charged with, or convicted of a criminal offence.
An aggravation is something that makes a charge more serious and is likely to make the the sentence more severe. For example, racial abuse can be a racial aggravation in a charge such as assault. What counts as an aggravation is often set out in an Act of Parliament.
These are crimes that an offender has committed in the past which are similar to the one they are currently being sentenced for.
Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO)
An ASBO prohibits an offender from doing anything listed in the Order. It is intended to stop antisocial behaviour that causes other people alarm or distress. For example anti-social behaviour could be playing loud music on a regular basis, or continually drinking in the street and becoming rowdy. A judge can issue an ASBO instead of, or in addition to, any other sentence.
An appeal is when accused people who have been convicted of a crime and given a sentence, go back to court to challenge the conviction, the sentence, or both.
Appeal sheriffs are judges who sit in the Sheriff Appeal Court. All sheriffs principal are appeal sheriffs. The Lord President can appoint other sheriffs to become appeal sheriffs as well. For more information on sheriff principals see the Judicial Office for Scotland website.
This Order enables a judge to send a convicted offender, who is believed to have a mental disorder based on evidence from a medical doctor, to a psychiatric hospital for assessment and treatment.
Automatic Early Release
This is a system where people serving sentences of imprisonment are released into the community after serving part of their sentence in custody. Short term prisoners (those serving less than four years) must serve one half of their sentence before being released. Long term prisoners must be released 'on licence' six months before the end of their sentence (unless they have previously been released in respect of that sentence). Automatic early release does not apply to those serving extended sentences. Being released 'on licence' means the person will be under the supervision of a social worker in the community. There are conditions they must follow such as staying at a certain address, staying in touch with their social worker and staying out of trouble with the police. If they do not follow the conditions, they can go back to prison to serve the rest of their sentence. The licence will last until the sentence is finished.