Understanding the Law
October 21, 2005
More legal terms to remember

We wILL continue to look at some words that are used in the court and legal documents so that we will be more knowledgeable about our laws.

You would hear the word arraignment when the Assizes are conducted in February, June or October. Arraignment comes from the verb arraign. This is to call the accused before the court to answer to the charges laid against him by the prosecutor in a criminal matter. {{more}} This session is held on the first day of the Criminal Assizes conducted in the High Court.. The accused or defendant is called by name and the indictment is read to him/her. He is expected to plead guilty or not guilty. If he stands mute or speechless it is taken to mean that he has pleaded ‘not guilty’.

An indictment is the written accusation when someone is indicted for a crime. The document laying out the charges is prepared by the Director of Public Prosecution and is read by the clerk of the High Court to the accused in open court. The charges are brought under the act that has been contravened. For example, if the accused injures someone he will be charged under Section 174 of the Criminal Code of the Laws of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Revised Edition, 1990 for “unlawfully and maliciously inflicting harm upon a person”. Where it was done with intent he will be charged under Section 173. Indictments are used in the High Court and not in the Magistrate courts

A deposition consists of the statements of a witness written down by the magistrate in a preliminary enquiry in the presence of the accused. The statements are essentially the evidence given by the witnesses that are brought by the prosecutor in support of the charge. The answers given under cross-examination and re-examination also form part of the deposition. If there is a prima facie case against the accused then the depositions are sent to the High court for trial. If there is insufficient evidence then the accused could be discharged.

Prima facie (Latin) If a prima facie case is made out it means that there is sufficient strong evidence for the accused to answer the charge or charges against him. The charges could however be rebutted by the evidence given by the accused.

Nolle prosequi (Latin) – When a nolle prosequi is entered, the Director of Public Prosecutor informs the court that it is no longer undertaking or continuing proceedings against the accused, in other words, the case is withdrawn. The accused would be discharged. A nolle prosequi could be entered at any time after the indictment is made. However, it does not prevent the DPP from bringing a case against the accused on the same facts at a later time.

Bona fide (Latin) – This suggests that something was done in good faith without any fraud or deceit. A bona fide purchaser without notice of the defects in the title of the land he purchases could appeal to the court to have his money returned or keep his purchase.

Tort – A tort is a civil wrong for which one can obtain a remedy in the form of damages. For example, if someone is imprisoned wrongfully that person can bring an action in tort in the civil court against the person who imprisoned him. If someone fails to observe certain standards of care towards another person then that person to whom there is a duty of care can bring an action in negligence. If a person is injured in a motor vehicle accident he may sue the tortfeasor for negligence. The person who caused the wrong is called the tortfeasor.