Home » Learn English Vocabulary & Idioms »

English words for crime and punishment

There are many words in English dealing with crime, the courts and punishment.

a – acquit / acquittal

acquit = to decide that someone is not guilty of a crime: "All the defendants were acquitted."

b – barrister, bail

barrister = a lawyer who is trained to defend or prosecute in a court: "The barrister asked many difficult questions."

bail = a sum of money that can be paid in some situations to allow someone accused of a crime to stay out of prison before the court case: "He won't get bail – he's extremely violent."

c – court, custody, conviction, cross-examination

court = the place where a crime is discussed and judged: "He's in court again – this is the second time this year!"

a court case = what happens in a court: "This is an interesting court case, as many people are involved."

in custody = when the police keep someone in prison before the person goes to court: "He's being kept in custody until the trial begins."

custodial sentence = when someone is sent to prison for a crime: "Custodial sentences are getting shorter."

conviction = when someone is found guilty of a crime: "He had a string of convictions going back twenty years."

cross-examination = when what someone says is questioned by the barrister representing the other side: "Under cross-examination, her evidence showed some inconsistencies."

d – defend, defendant

to defend – to argue the innocence of the person who is accused of a crime (the defendant):"The barrister defending him is going to have a hard time."

e – evidence

evidence = information that proves someone is guilty: "The forensic evidence shows that he committed the murder."

f – fine

fine = a sum of money that is paid as a punishment for a minor crime: "He got a small fine for speeding."

g – guilty

find someone guilty = when it is decided that someone has committed a crime: "He was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment."

h – hearsay

hearsay = when you hear something from someone, but you don't know if it is true or not: "Although the police are suspicious, they can't prosecute him on what the neighbours think – it's all hearsay."

i – illegal

illegal = against the law: "The brothers carried out an illegal trade in rare and endangered animals."

j – judge, jury, justice

judge = a person who is in control of a court. The judge makes sure that both sides of the argument are heard, sums up or explains things to the jury, if necessary, and passes sentence if the defendant is found guilty. "She's a well-respected judge."

jury = 12 citizens who are selected at random to decide whether someone is guilty or not in a criminal trial: "I have to do jury service next month and I'm a little nervous." "The jury took five hours to find him not guilty."

justice = how people are judged: "The British justice system is unlike other European systems."

l – life sentence

life sentence = when someone guilty of murder or other serious crimes is sent to prison for "life": "He's currently serving two life sentences for murder."

m – magistrate, magistrate's court

magistrate = someone who judges less serious crimes: "She was in the magistrate's court for shoplifting."

n – not guilty

not guilty = when someone is found to be innocent of a crime: "The jury found her not guilty."

o – Old Bailey

Old Bailey – famous law courts in London, where serious crimes are tried: "The public gallery at the Old Bailey is a good place to witness the British justice system."

p – prosecution, parole, plea, plaintiff

prosecution = the lawyers arguing against the defendant: "The doctor was a witness for the prosecution."

parole = when a convicted criminal is allowed out of prison before the end of the sentence: "He was sentenced to ten years, but with parole, he'll serve seven years at the most." "She's on parole."

plea = a statement in court saying whether a person is guilty or not: "The defendant entered a plea of not guilty."

plaintiff = someone who takes a person to court and brings a legal action against them: "The plaintiff stated that the defendant had deliberately destroyed his fence."

q – QC

QC (Queen's Counsel) = a senior barrister.

r – diminished responsibility

diminished responsibility = when someone cannot be held responsible for a crime, because they are mentally ill: "A plea of diminished responsibility was accepted."

s – statement, sentence

statement = something that a person says is true and which is officially written down: "In your statement to the police, you said that you had left the party at 11 pm."

sentence = the punishment that a judge gives someone who is guilty of a crime: "People are no longer sentenced to death in the UK."

t – trial

trial = the court process which decides if someone is guilty or not: "The murder trial is being reported in all the newspapers."

u – unsafe

unsafe conviction = when someone has been found guilty because the evidence was wrong or the witnesses didn't tell the truth: "The judge ruled the convictions unsafe and they were released from prison."

v – victim, verdict

victim = the person who has the crime committed against him or her: "The murder victim was aged between 25 and 30."

verdict = what the jury decides: "The jury returned a verdict of not guilty."

w – witness

witness = someone who sees a crime being committed: "The police are appealing for witnesses to come forward."




Please share this page :-)
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someone


Your Name


Your Email (not published)


Your Comment






Get a FREE English Short Story!


Like to learn English? Join 19,600+ people who read our newsletter and get more help with:
✓ Speaking
✓ Vocabulary
✓ Real Life English

We won't share your email address and you can unsubscribe any time.