S, T, U

  • sanction -

    (1) Punishment or threat of punishment to make people do the right thing. For example, a court may impose a penalty on a party who fails to lodge documents on time; a prison sentence is a sanction imposed for an offence. (2) Approval or authorisation. For example, a company director can authorise (sanction) an employee’s spending on travel for work.

  • schedule -

    Extra information accompanying an Act of parliament or a contract, such as tables, lists or forms.

  • secondary victim -

    (1) A person who witnesses a crime or other violence and is psychologically injured by seeing it. (2) The parent or guardian of a child who has been injured. Compare primary victim.

  • secured creditor -

    A person or company that is owed money and has the right to sell a debtor’s property to cover any money that has not been paid by the due date. The payment is secured by a mortgage, charge or lien over the property of the debtor.

  • security -

    Money or property promised to be handed over as a guarantee for repayment of a loan, or as a guarantee that a defendant will meet their bail conditions.

  • security interest -

    An interest in or power over property to secure payment of a debt or obligation, generally in the form of a mortgage, charge or lien.

  • security patient/resident -

    A person who has been sent to a mental hospital or residential institution rather than to prison.

  • self-incrimination -

    Saying something that might be used against you in court. The privilege against self-incrimination is the right, with certain limitations, not to do or say any-thing that might later be used as evidence against you.

  • self-representation -

    Presenting your own case in court without having a lawyer there to assist you.

  • self-represented litigant -

    A person who does not have a lawyer to appear for them in court and who presents their case to the court themselves. Also called ‘unrepresented litigant’.

  • sentencing order -

    A court order that imposes a penalty, such as imprisonment, in a criminal case. Compare non-custodial sentence.

  • sequestration order -

    An order taking away a bankrupt’s property so that it can be used to pay off their debts.

  • serious indictable offence -

    An indictable offence that has a penalty of imprisonment for five years or more.

  • serious injury -

    Injury as a result of a car accident or other transport accident that causes serious long-term damage. Includes losing an arm, a leg, or bodily functions, suffering continuing mental or behavioural disturbances, or, for a pregnant woman, losing the baby.

  • service -

    Formal delivery of legal documents to a person to tell them there are court proceedings against them which they must defend, or to make sure a witness in a case knows when they have to go to court to give evidence.

  • servitude -

    (1) Being completely under the control of another, for example in sexual servitude (sex slavery).
    (2) A legal relationship between two pieces of land, where one is subject to a right that can be exercised over it by the owner of the other (e.g. an easement).

  • severable (parts of a contract) -

    Able to be removed by a court without stopping the rest of the contract having legal effect.

  • sheriff -

    An officer of the court who is responsible for the enforcement of court orders.

  • show cause -

    The requirement that a party convince a government authority or a court why some decision should not be made against them. For example, to get bail, an accused person might have to show a court why they should not be held in prison. A defendant who has to show cause has a reversed burden of proof (i.e. it is the defendant, not the prosecution, that has to prove something).

  • sine die -

    Latin for ‘another day’. Used when a court hearing is adjourned indefinitely, usually when the parties say they have reached agreement. The case can then only be brought back if one of the parties applies to the court.
    See also

  • solicitor -

    A legal practitioner (lawyer) who sees clients and opens files to deal with their legal matters but usually does not appear in court. See also barrister.

  • solvent -

    Having enough money to pay all your debts when they are due.

  • special damages -

    Part of the money a court orders to be paid as compensation by a defendant. Special damages cover specific expenses that can be calculated exactly, such as medical expenses or the cost of buying a replacement item. See also damages; general damages.

  • specific performance -

    Carrying out the precise obli­gations that are set out in a contract. For example, a contract might require the sale of a piece of land. If the parties do not perform a contract a court can order specific performance.

  • spent conviction -

    A criminal conviction which is removed from a person’s criminal record if they do not reoffend during a certain period.

  • stale complaint -

    A complaint that fails because the person making the complaint has waited too long to take action.

  • stamp duty -

    A state tax on the transfer of ownership of property such as land, or on leases.

  • stand down -

    To adjourn (postpone) a case. Also called standing over, as in ‘standing the matter over’.

  • standard of proof -

    The level of proof required level to prove a case in court. In criminal cases the prosecution must prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. In civil (non-criminal) cases, the plaintiff must prove that their argument is more likely to be true than false. This is known as proof on the balance of probabilities.

  • standing -

    The right to appear in a court action and be heard. In general, a person cannot bring a case or have their say in a court about something that does not directly affect their interests. They must be able to show that they have sufficient interest in the case because, for example, of possible effects on their property or commercial activities. Also called locus standi.

  • status quo -

    The way things are now, the existing situation.

  • statute -

    A law made by parliament, either state or Commonwealth. Also called an Act, and Act of parliament or legislation.

  • statute-barred debts -

    Debts for which the right to take action to recover payment is limited to a specified period. After that time expires, an action will not succeed in court.

  • statutory -

    Found in a statute of delegated legislation. For example, a statutory authority or body is aperson or organisation that has special powers given by parliament to do work for the public benefit.

  • statutory declaration -

    A written statement of facts that meet statutory requirements by being signed and declared to be true before an official authorised to take declarations.

  • statutory defence -

    Protection against being sued that is stated in legislation. The defence stops a person being found liable in court. For example, a person who is giving evidence in court is can say things would be defamation if they said it anywhere else.

  • stay of proceedings -

    An order that a particular legal action stop. A stay may be for a fixed period, or until some stated event occurs, or permanent.

  • strict liability -

    Holding a person responsible for breaking a law, whether or not they intended to break it, or were negligent. Proof that the person broke the law is enough.
    See also liability; mens rea; negligence.

  • subpoena -

    A court order saying that a person must appear in court to give verbal evidence or provide particular documents. See also summons.

  • substantiation -

    Providing proof of a claim, for example that an expense was incurred (where producing a receipt substantiates the claim).

  • sue -

    To take legal action in a civil case.

  • sufficiently interested party -

    A person or company that is not a party to a contract but has been involved in a transaction in some way. This gives the court reason to allow them to be named as a party in the proceeding.

  • summary offence -

    A minor criminal offence, for example being drunk and disorderly, usually heard in the Magistrates’ Court. Compare indictable offence.

  • summons -

    A formal document issued by a court which says someone must appear in court on the date stated in the document. See also service; writ.

  • supervision order -

    An order the Children’s Court may impose upon a young person found guilty of an offence. Under this order, the young person will be supervised by a probation officer and will have to obey any other conditions the court imposes upon them. These conditions can be placed on the young person’s parents or persons with whom the young person is living. Also, a supervision order requires a person arguing substantial mental impairment in a serious criminal case to be admitted to a mental institution.

  • supportive attorney -

    A person appointed to support someone in making and giving effect to their decisions by accessing their personal information and communicating on their behalf, for example in discussions with medical services. See also enduring power; power of attorney.

  • surety -

    In criminal law, a person who promises a court that an accused person released on bail will attend court on a hearing date. If the accused person does not attend court, the surety must pay the court the amount of money stated in the bail documents. Also referred to as the guarantor. The sum of money payable if there is a breach is also referred to as the surety.

  • suspended sentence -

    In a criminal matter, an adjournment without conviction. The sentence may be partially or wholly suspended, or a combined custody and treatment order.

  • suspension -

    Exclusion of a student from school for a stated period as a disciplinary measure (a less severe punishment than expulsion).

  • sworn evidence -

    Evidence given in court under oath or affirmation.

  • taxable form -

    Set out in a way that meets the requirements for assessing a lawyer’s bill of costs. A bill in taxable form shows details of all the lawyer’s services and the charges made for each.

  • tenancy -

    The agreement between a landlord and a tenant for the rental of a property.

  • tenants in common -

    A form of joint ownership in which two or more people own property. Each person has their own separate share, and that share of the property can be left in a will. Compare with joint tenants.

  • tender -

    To offer or hand over. For example, evidence is tendered in a court. Money is ‘legal tender’ that can be handed over in exchange for goods. A debtor can tender (offer) an amount of money in full payment of a debt, even if the debt is more than the amount tendered. Also, a tender can be a quote offering to construct a building or undertake renovations for a given price.

  • termination -

    The end of something. Contracts terminate when the parties have done what they agreed. A contract can also be terminated without being completed, for example if one party breaks the contract, or it is impossible to carry out.

  • terms of reference -

    The formal list of things that a body set up to examine a matter of public interest can investigate and report on. The body must investigate all the matters listed, and it cannot go beyond them.

  • testamentary capacity -

    The legal and mental ability to draw up a valid will. The mental capacity to understand about property rights and family responsibilities are important aspects of capacity.

  • testator -

    A person who makes a will.

  • therapeutic privilege -

    The right of doctors and other health professionals, in some circumstances, not to give a patient information that they believe it would harm them to know.

  • third-party objector -

    A person appealing against a decision to grant approval for developments that may be harmful to the environment.

  • Torrens title -

    The most common system of land registration, managed by Land Use Victoria, where a person’s ownership of the land is registered and guaranteed by being on the register (unlike the old system of title deeds for general law land that is not yet under this system).
    See also conveyance.

  • tort -

    A civil wrong that causes harm, intentionally or otherwise. A person affected by a tort can take action in court to claim compensation for damage caused by the wrong, or an injunction to stop the wrong continuing.

  • trafficking -

    Trading people or illegal products such as guns, drugs or ivory, often across borders, for commercial reward.

  • transfer of land -

    A document used to change ownership of land from one person to another. The transfer must be registered with Land Victoria. See also certificate of title.

  • treatment order -

    A court order saying that a person convicted of a criminal offence will be sent to a psychiatric hospital for treatment instead of going to prison.

  • trespass -

    (1) Going onto someone’s land without permission. (2) Trespass to goods is wrongful interference with someone’s personal property, for example doing something that harms someone’s computer. (3) Trespass to the person is doing something that interferes with a person’s body without their permission, for example giving a very drunk person a tattoo.

  • tribunal -

    A body set up to hear and decide disputes, usually with less formality and less strict rules of evidence than in a court proceeding.

  • trust -

    A type of property ownership or arrangement where one party, known as the trustee, holds property or money for the benefit of another party, referred to as the beneficiary.

  • trust account -

    A bank account in which money is held on behalf another person, not for the use of the account holder. For example, a lawyer’s trust account holds clients’ money. It is regulated by strict accounting rules that safeguard the clients’ interests. For example, a trustee may hold a child’s inheritance for them until they turn 18.

  • trust deed -

    A formal legal document setting out the rights and obligations of all the parties to a trust.

  • ultra vires -

    ‘Beyond power’. An act of a person or body that is outside their powers under the law. For example, it would be ultra vires for the Victorian Parliament to pass laws applying to the New South Wales Police Force because this is a power of the New South Wales Parliament, not the Victorian Parliament.

  • unconscionable conduct -

    Behaviour that takes unfair advantage of a vulnerable person in a contract or other transaction. The vulnerability can be due to factors such as poor education, disability, language difficulties or being affected by alcohol.

  • undertake -

    To promise to do or not do something, such as returning to court on a certain day, or to hand a document over to another party in a legal proceeding. An undertaking is enforceable by attachment or like an injunction.

  • undue influence -

    Taking unfair or improper advantage of the weakness of another person. The influence is to make them agree to do or not to do something they would not do of their own free will.

  • unliquidated -

    Not yet set as a definite amount. For example, unliquidated damages are damages where the final amount is still to be worked out by a judge or jury; an unliquidated debt has not been paid or cleared balance remains uncertain or in dispute. See also liquidated.

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