This page is under development. Please email to suggest words to be added to the glossary.


Oath In court proceedings the sworn undertaking by a witness to give truthful evidence. See also Affirmation

Obiter dictum Opinion given incidentally. In other words, the opinion or comment is not the reason for the decision in the case.

Obtemper To obey, usually of the decree or order of a court.


An offence is a breach of law, a crime


An offender is someone who has committed a crime. The term offender is only used after a person has been convicted of an offence. Before conviction, someone facing a charge is called the accused.

Open court

Most criminal hearings are heard in open court where the public can attend. Some sensitive cases are heard in private, which is known as ‘in camera’.

Opinion A statement by a court or judge of reasons for the decision in a case. In the Sheriff Court it is called a "Note" and is attached to the interlocutor containing the decision.

Options hearing A hearing in an ordinary action in the sheriff court to decide the next stage in the case. That could be a continuation of the hearing for up to a month to adjust the pleadings, the fixing of a debate on the law or a proof of the facts.


Order for Lifelong Restriction

An OLR is a lifelong sentence put in place to protect the public. It is a sentence of imprisonment which can be imposed on people convicted at the High Court of a serious violent offence (other than murder), a serious sexual offence, an offence which endangers life, or an offence which indicates a tendency  to serious violent, sexual or life-endangering offending. The court must impose an OLR where it appears that, because of the nature or circumstances of the offence, there is a likelihood that the offender will in the future seriously endanger the lives, or physical or psychological well-being, of members of the public, if he or she is not in custody.


The judge must set a ‘punishment part’ of the OLR which is the minimum time the offender must spend in prison before being considered by the Parole Board for Scotland for release into the community. If offenders are considered to be safe to serve the rest of their sentence in the community, they will remain under the intensive supervision of a criminal justice social worker. If the person commits another crime, they can be sent back to prison.

Ordinary cause All sheriff court civil actions other than small claims, summary causes and summary applications, are ordinary actions subject to the Ordinary Cause Rules 1993 in the First Schedule to the Sheriff Courts (Scotland) Act 1907. A claim for £5,000 or more must be by an ordinary action.

Ordinary, Lord The judge who hears cases at first instance in the Court of Session.


Outer House of the Court of Session

The Court of Session is Scotland's supreme civil court. It is divided into the Outer House and the Inner House. The Outer House primarily hears civil cases when they first come to court (i.e. at first instance). For more  information see the Scottish Courts and Tribunals website.