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Cabinet Secretary for Justice

This is the person in the Scottish Government with overall responsibility for law and order, also commonly referred to as the Justice Secretary.

Case Law

This is law that comes into being through decisions made by judges in previous cases, rather than law that is passed by Parliament.

Caution (pronounced kayshun)

Caution is pronounced to rhyme with station. Convicted offenders can be ordered to hand over a sum of money held by the court as security for good behaviour. If the offender doesn’t get into trouble for a set time, the money will be returned. Caution can also be used in civil cases where a person must lodge money to cover a possible cost in the future, for example the expenses of the case if it is lost.


A judge’s work office when not presiding in the courtroom.


The charge is the crime that the accused person is thought to have committed.

Child welfare hearing A hearing before a sheriff in the sheriff court in family proceedings in which issues of residence and contact are discussed. The parties to the action are expected to appear personally.

Circuit Court The court held by the judges of the High Court of Justiciary when they sit outside Edinburgh.

Cite / Citation (1) To summon to court a party, witness or juror.

(2) To refer in argument to some authority such as a statute or decided case.

Civil cases

Cases in which one person or party brings an action against another person or party seeking some form of redress or other remedy. For more information see our fact sheet: The Judiciary in Scotland - Civil.

College of Justice

Created in 1532, it may be said to consist of the Supreme Courts judges (senators), Faculty of Advocates, writers to the signet (a society of solicitors), solicitors to the Supreme Courts, macers (the court officer who carried a mace before the judges) and Supreme Courts staff.

Commercial action Civil proceedings defined in rules of court heard in a Commercial Court in the Court of Session or a specified Sheriff Court.

Commissary Relating to establishing the succession rights and disposal of a deceased person's estate.

Commissary Court The court which grants a title to executors or administrators of a deceased persons' estate.

Commissioner of Justiciary, Lord See, Lord Commissioner of Justiciary.


Community Payback Order (CPO)

This is an Order that is community based. It is given as an alternative to a custodial (prison or detention) sentence. It can be made-up of one or more parts. There is a wide range of requirements which can be part of this Order. These include:


  • up to 300 hours unpaid work for the community
  • supervision - working with a social worker to change offending behaviour
  • paying compensation (money) to the victim of the crime
  • attending programmes – such as those dealing with domestic abuse or sexual offences
  • receiving treatments – such as mental health, drug or alcohol

See our CPO webpage for further details.

Community service order An order, as an alternative to a custodial sentence, requiring an offender convicted of an offence punishable by imprisonment to perform a specified number of hours of unpaid work in the community.

Compearance The appearance of a defender or respondent in civil proceedings.

Compensation order An order requiring an offender convicted of an offence to pay compensation to a person for personal injury, loss, or damage caused directly or indirectly, or alarm or distress caused directly against whom or against whose property the acts constituting the offence were directed.



A complainer is the alleged victim named in a charge.


This is a court document that sets out the charges against the accused in less serious cases. These cases are called summary cases and are heard before a justice of the peace or a sheriff without a jury. More serious (solemn) charges are brought on indictment.

Conclusion The statement of the precise order sought in a civil action in the Court of Session.

Concurrent sentences

When a person is convicted of more than one offence, the court can order that each sentence is to run at the same time, rather than one after the other. This is called concurrent sentences.

Condescendence A written statement in an action setting out the factual and legal grounds of action of the pursuer in a civil action.

Conditional discharge

A conditional discharge is where the offender is given no punishment as long as they do not commit another crime within a set amount of time.

Confirmation The authority obtained from a sheriff authorising a person (an executor) to gather and distribute the estate of a deceased person.

Confiscation A court order made in criminal proceedings, after conviction or absolute discharge, where money or other property is taken from the offender because he or she benefited by it from criminal conduct.


Consecutive sentences

Where a person is convicted of more than one offence, the court can order each sentence to run one after the other. These are called consecutive sentences. There are rules in place about when this can happen - it is not possible in all cases

Consignation The deposit in court or with a third party under court authority of money or an article in dispute.

Consistorial Relating to certain family matters, including actions of divorce , nullity of marriage, and legitimacy.

Contact order A formal order of the court allowing one person to see a child for residential or non-residential access. Formerly called access.

Continued diet A hearing in a case which has been continued from an earlier date.


When an accused person pleads guilty or is found guilty of an offence, they are convicted of that offence.


When a person has pled guilty, or been found guilty, of a crime in the past, it is called a conviction.


Counsel are advocates who act for the prosecution and the defence in more serious cases.

Counterclaim A claim made by a defender against a pursuer in a civil action raised against him or her.

Court of Criminal Appeal The High Court of Justiciary when sitting to hear appeals in solemn proceedings (cases heard on indictment before a jury) is sometimes called the Court of Criminal Appeal.


Court of Session

This is Scotland's highest civil court dealing with the most serious cases. Examples of civil cases are business cases and family cases.


The courts in Scotland are made up of the supreme courts, the sheriff courts, and the justice of the peace courts. The supreme courts are the High Court of Justiciary (for criminal cases) and the Court of Session (for civil cases).

Court of summary jurisdiction This is a court sitting without a jury hearing summary criminal proceedings on summary complaint. The courts are the sheriff court when hearing criminal proceedings on summary complaint, a stipendary magistrate or a Justice of the Peace Court.

Crave The statement of the precise order sought in a civil proceedings in the sheriff court.

Creditor A person to whom another person (or debtor) is obliged in some monetary or other obligation.

Criminal appeal An application to the High Court of Justiciary sitting as an appellate court to set aside the decision of a court that heard a case at first instance. A criminal appeal from a court of summary criminal jurisdiction is formally called a justiciary appeal. See also Court of Criminal Appeal and Justiciary Appeal Court.


Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority

This authority deals with claims for compensation (money) from people who have been physically or mentally injured because they were the victim of a violent crime.

Criminal Justice Social Work Scotland

CJSWS acts on behalf of the Scottish courts to: supervise offenders aged 16 and over who have been given a community based sentence; to provide background reports to the courts about offenders to assist the judge with deciding on a sentence; and to provide supervision for certain offenders released from prison.

Criminal record

This is a list of a person’s criminal convictions and is held on the Criminal History System which is owned by the Scottish Police Authority.

Cross-examination Questions asked of a witness on behalf of a party who has not led the witness are referred to as cross-examination.


See Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.

Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service

The COPFS is the justice organisation responsible for the prosecution of crime in Scotland. It also investigates sudden or suspicious deaths, and complaints against the police. Prosecutors in Scotland are called procurators fiscal.


This is the level of responsibility or blame for committing a crime. For example, a person who plans a crime in advance will normally be considered to be more culpable than someone who commits it on the spur of the moment.

Culpable homicide

This is where an offender is responsible for causing the death of another person, but has not committed murder. For example, because they didn't intend to kill the person.

Custodial sentence

This is a sentence of imprisonment. Adults are sent to prison and youths aged 16 to 21 are sent to a young offender’s institution.


A person is in custody when they are kept in prison, a young offenders' institution, or a police cell.

Curator (not 'curaytor') A person either entitled by law or appointed by the court or an individual to administer the estate of another, as of a young or a person with mental incapacity. See now Guardian.

Curator ad litem A person appointed by the court to look after the interests of a party to proceedings who is under legal disability but has no guardian.

Curator bonis The person formerly appointed by the court to manage the estate of a young person in place of his legal guardian or to manage the estate of an adult suffering from a mental disorder.

Curatory Where a person was too young, or infirm, to look after his or her own (financial) affairs, a curator or judicial factor was appointed to do so (a curator or judicial factor). See now, Guardian.

Custody order Now known as a 'residence order' by which a court states with whom a child will live.

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