The Parole Board for Scotland is an independent body which decides on when eligible offenders are ready to leave prison to serve the remainder of their sentence in the community under the supervision of a social worker.
This is a hearing held in private at the earliest court stage of a serious criminal prosecution.
A plea is the answer the accused gives to the court at the beginning of a case when asked if they are guilty or not guilty of the offence.
Plea in mitigation
The accused, or their lawyer, can address the judge with a plea in mitigation. This brings to the judge's attention any mitigating factors that are likely to make a sentence less severe. For examples of mitigating factors, see our Sentencing Factors page.
This is the date assigned for a criminal case to call in court where the accused is asked whether they plead guilty or not guilty.
This report is generally prepared by a social worker to assist the judge in deciding the most appropriate sentence. It usually includes an assessment of the nature and seriousness of the offence and the impact on a victim. A judge is required to get a pre-sentence report before giving a Community Payback Order or a custodial sentence (if the offender has not received a custodial sentence before, or is under the age of 21).
This is a hearing in the High Court for more serious cases, called solemn proceedings, to decide if the case is ready to go to trial. Some legal or factual issues may also be determined at this stage.
Presumption of innocence
An accused person is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty by a court. The court must decide whether the prosecutor has proven the facts they are relying upon for a guilty verdict. The accused does not require to prove their innocence.
When an offender has previously been convicted in court of committing crimes, these are called previous convictions. A person is convicted when they admit they committed a crime or are found guilty by a judge or a jury of committing the crime. Some convictions can be analogous. This means that they are the same or similar to the crime the person is being sentenced for at the time.
Procurators fiscal are based throughout Scotland. They are legally qualified civil servants who receive reports about crimes from the police and others and then decide what action to take in the public interest, including whether to prosecute someone. They also look into deaths that need further explanation and investigate allegations of criminal conduct against police officers.
The prosecutor is a lawyer who puts the case against the accused. In Scotland, the public prosecutor is called a procurator fiscal and is a member of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.
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