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Dictionary of legal terms - P
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[Home][Index - Dictionary][Dictionary of legal terms - P]


UK Law Dictionary - English Legal System

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A person afflicted with "paedophilia", a sexual perversion in which children are preferred as sexual partners.

Palm tree justice


A term, often used pejoratively, for compromise justice, as distinct from real justice.  At best, a common sense approach, or pragmatic justice.




Perhaps derived from the image of a colonial magistrate sitting under his judicial palm tree, meting out decisions that seemed right to him in the particular cases at hand, or from the concept of people sitting under a tree and agreeing a solution. 




BUCKNILL LJ, in the unreported case of Newgrosh v Newgrosh (1950) appears to be the first judge to have use the expression judicially, when he said,


"...the principle which has been described here as 'Palm Tree Justice.' I understand that to be justice which makes orders which appear to be fair and just in the special circumstances of the case."



A person who is not a lawyer or is not acting in that capacity but who provides a limited number of legal services.



A pardon is a crown decision to allow a person who has been convicted of a crime, to be free and absolved of that conviction, as if never convicted.

Parens patriae 


[Latin:  a common law creation whereby the courts have the right to make unfettered decisions concerning people who are not able to take care of themselves].




For example, court can make custody decisions regarding a child or an insane person, even without statute law to allow them to do so, based on their residual, common law based parens patriae jurisdiction.

Pari delicto 


Latin for "of equal fault." For example, if two parties complain to a judge of the non performance of a contract by the other, the judge could refuse to provide a remedy to either of them because of "pari delicto": a finding that they were equally at fault in causing the contract's breach. Pari passu 




[Latin: Equitably and without preference]. This term is often used in bankruptcy proceedings where creditors are said to be "pari passu" which means that they are all equal and that distribution of the assets will occur without preference between them



An early release from prison in which the prisoner promises to heed certain conditions (usually set by a parole board) and under the supervision of a probation officer. Any violation of those conditions could result in the return of the person to prison.



Killing one's parent or another a family member or close relative.



A business organisation in which two or more persons carry on a business together for profit. Partners are each fully liable for all the debts of the enterprise but they also share the profits exclusively. 




One of the basic advantages of partnerships is that they tend to allow business losses to be deducted from personal income for tax purposes (see also limited partner).

Parliament Acts (1911 and 1949)


The Parliament Act of 1911 was introduced to reform Parliament, and the House of Lords in particular. It deprived the House of Lords of any power over Money Bills and gave the Speaker the power to decide what was a Money Bill. It allowed Bills that had been passed by the Commons in three successive sessions, but rejected by the Lords in all three, to become Law. It reduced the maximum life of a Parliament from seven to five years.




The Parliament Act 1949 reduced the powers that the House of Lords had to delay a Bill from becoming law if the House of Commons approved it. Since the Parliament Act 1911 the House of Lords had been able to delay legislation for two years. The 1949 Act reduced this to one year.



Being a father. "Paternity suits" are launched when a man denies paternity of a child born out of wedlock. New technology of DNA testing can establish paternity thus obliging the father to provide child support.



The killing of one's father.



The person to whom payment is addressed or given.  In commercial law, the term refers to the person to whom a bill of exchange is made payable. On a regular cheque, the space preceded with the words "pay to the order of" identifies the payee.



The person who is making the payment(s).   In commercial law, the word refers to the person who makes the payment on a cheque or bill of exchange.



A member of the House of Lords.
A Peer is someone who is a Baron, Duke, Earl or Marquis.




Some titles are Hereditary but most Barons are Life Peers. Life Peers and some Hereditary Peers are entitled to sit in the House of Lords.




The Members of the House of Lords consist of around 700 Hereditary Peers, Life Peers and Bishops. The public does not elect Members of the Lords.




Hereditary Peers inherit their titles and Life Peers are appointed by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister to serve for their life; the title is not transferable. Since 2000 most hereditary peers have lost the right to sit in the House of Lords.

Pendente lite 


[Latin: during litigation]. For example, if the validity of a will is challenged, a court might appoint an administrator pendente lite with limited powers to do such things as may be necessary to preserve the assets of the deceased until a hearing can be convened on the validity of the will.




Another example is an injunction pendente lite, to last only during the litigation and, again, designed simply to preserve something until the decisive court order is issued.

Per curiam 


[Latin: by the court - literally "through the senate"] Statement made by the court to clarify a point of law, correctly made and can be used as precedent. 




Statements per curiam are sometimes found near the end of case report, or they may be in the headnote usually High Court, Court of Appeal or House of Lords cases.




They are explicit statements of the law.  Normally, there is one judgment given by one judge on behalf of the whole court (hence "through the senate").  The other judges may or may not make comments.  However, in the House of Lords there are separate speeches, one of which might contain the per curiam statement.




The per curiam statement will probably not be part of the ratio decidendi of the case, but is nevertheless intended to be an authoritative statement of the law.




So, in Halsey v Milton Keynes General NHS Trust [2004] CA the Court of Appeal was asked to decide "when should the court impose a costs sanction against a successful litigant on the grounds that he has refused to take part in an alternative dispute resolution (ADR)?"; the court issued a statement per curiam:


"All members of the legal profession who conduct litigation should now routinely consider with their clients whether their disputes are suitable for ADR" (at paragraph 11).


In Halsey Lord Justice Dyson gave the judgment for the whole court.




Contrast per incuriam




The curia (from where we derive per curiam) was the senate house where Roman senators met during the Republic of ancient Rome.  Although the Senate could not make laws, it was the dominant force in Roman politics; its decrees virtually had the force of law and strongly influenced legislation.  Like modern courts, the senate was not an elected body and like early English courts its original purpose was to advise the King.

Per incuriam (the "per incuriam rule")


[Latin: through the want of care] A decision which a subsequent court finds to be a mistake, and therefore not binding precedent. 




It may have occurred through ignorance of a relevant authority e.g. a case on the point of law or legislation.




Firstly, in the Court of Appeal a decision is given per incuriam it acted in ignorance of a previous decision of its own or of a court of co-ordinate jurisdiction which covered the case before it.

If this happens it must decide which case to follow.




Second, when it has acted in ignorance of a House of Lords decision.

If this happens it must follow that decision.




Third, when the decision is given in ignorance of the terms of a statute or rule having statutory force.




Forth, when, in rare and exceptional cases, when it is satisfied that the earlier decision involved a manifest slip or error and there is no real prospect of a further appeal to the House of Lords.




General rule:

A decision is not per incuriam, for example because the court had not the benefit of the best argument. 




Generally, the only cases in which decisions should be held to be given per incuriam are those given in ignorance of some inconsistent statute or binding authority.




Even if a decision of the Court of Appeal has misinterpreted a previous decision of the House of Lords, the Court of Appeal must follow its previous decision and leave the House of Lords to rectify the mistake.




Sir Raymond Evershed MR, in Williams v Fawcett (1985) CA:


"As a general rule the only cases in which decisions should be held to have been given per incuriam are those of decisions given in ignorance or forgetfulness of some inconsistent statutory provision or of some authority binding on the court concerned: so that in such cases some part of the decision or some step in the reasoning on which it is based is found, on that account, to be demonstrably wrong.


"This definition is not necessarily exhaustive, but cases not strictly within it which can properly be held to have been decided per incuriam must, in our judgment, consistently with the stare decisis rule which is an essential feature of our law, be, in the language of Lord Greene MR, of the rarest occurrence. In the present case it is not shown that any statutory provision or binding authority was overlooked... As we have already said, it is, in our judgment, impossible to fasten upon any part of the decision under consideration or upon any step in the reasoning upon which the judgments were based and to say of it: 'Here was a manifest slip or error.'"


Lord Denning, citing the per incuriam rule, in Broome v Cassell [1971] famously persuaded the other members of the Court of Appeal to reach a decision that was contrary to a House of Lords decision in Rookes v Barnard [1964].  This was part of a concerted campaign by Denning to give more flexibility to the Court of Appeal.  Denning's decision was reversed when Broome reached the House of Lords.




In Young v Bristol Aeroplane co. Ltd [1944] the Court of Appeal found three reasons for not being bound by its previous decisions, the third is " ... the court is not bound to follow a decision of its own if it is satisfied that the decision was given per incuriam, e.g., where a statute or a rule having statutory effect which would have affected the decision was not brought to the attention of the earlier court". 


It is now found that there are more than three reasons, for example conflict with the Human Rights Act.

Percolating water 


Water which seeps or filters through the ground without any definite channel and not part of the flow of any waterway. The best example is rain water.



An intentional lie given while under oath or in a sworn affidavit.

Permanent Vegetative State 


Permanent Vegetative State See PVS below.



Forever; of unlimited duration. There is a strong bias in the law against things that are to last in perpetuity. Rights that are to last forever are said to hinder commerce as an impediment to the circulation of property. That is why there is a rule against perpetuities



An entity with legal rights and existence including the ability to sue and be sued, to sign contracts, to receive gifts, to appear in court either by themselves or by lawyer and, generally, other powers incidental to the full expression of the entity in law. Individuals are "persons" in law unless they are minors or under some kind of other disability, such as a court finding of mental incapacity.




Many laws give certain powers to "persons" which, in almost all instances, includes business organisations that have been formally registered such as partnerships, corporations or associations.

Personal property


This is all property except land.

Personal representative 


In the law of wills, this is the general name given to the person who administers the estate of a deceased person. There are two kinds of personal representatives. Where a person dies without a will, the court must appoint an administrator. Where a personal representative is named in a will, the personal representative is known as an executor or if female an executrix.



A petty or underhanded lawyer who sustains a professional livelihood on disreputable or dishonourable business. The word has also taken on an common usage definition referring to anyone prone to quibbling over details

Petty offence 


A minor crime and for which the punishment is usually just a small fine or short term of imprisonment.

Physical custody or actual custody 


A child custody decision which used to grant the right to organise and administer the day to day residential care of a child. Now the orders are for parental responsibility and residence (or contact, prohibited steps or specific issues).



To object publicly, on or adjacent to the employer's premises, to an employer's labour practices, goods or services. The most common form of picketing is patrolling with signs



A medieval punishment and restraining device made of moveable and adjustable boards through which a prisoner's head or limbs were pinned. Pillories were often fixed to the ground in a city's main square and on market days, local criminals were exhibited.




Citizens were given license to throw things at the prisoners. As such, this method of punishment was not just humiliating but often led to serious injury or death. For the government, this was a public statement serving to warn others of the consequences of crime. England abolished the pillory as a form of punishment in 1837.



Formerly the person who brings an case to court; who sues.




Now called "claimant", "petitioner" or "applicant". The person being sued is generally called the "defendant" or the "respondent".

Plea and directions 


A procedure in the Crown Court at which a defendant is required to enter his or her plea and the judge may makes directions as to the progress of the case.

Plea bargaining 


Negotiations during a criminal trial, between an accused person and a prosecutor in which the accused agrees to admit to a crime (sometimes a lesser crime than the one set out in the original charge), avoiding the expense of a trial. 




Judges seldom give an indication of sentence in the event of a plea of guilty, but counsel can ask to see the judge for such purpose, but the judge will usually refuse.

Plea before venue 


A procedure in the magistrates’ court where, in an either-way case, a defendant is given the opportunity to indicate his or her likely plea



That part of a party's case in which he or she formally sets out the facts and legal arguments which support that party's position. Pleadings can be in writing or they can be made verbally to a court, during the trial.



To kill or take an animal or fish from the property of another



Scottish law, (pronounced pinding) is seizing the property of an alleged debtor.



Being married to more than one person.



A lie detector machine which records even the slightest variation in blood pressure, body temperature and respiration as questions are put to, and answers elicited from a subject.  Has no application in UK.

post hoc ergo propter hoc


[Latin: "after this therefore because of this"]


Because one thing happens after another, the first event was a cause of the second event. This is a fallacy.




Nevertheless, it is used in argument to suggest the first event caused the second.


For example, statistics show that mediations increase at the rate of 25% per annum in the two years that followed the Court of Appeal decision in Dunnett v Railtrack [2002] 2 All ER 850. The Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR) say ‘post hoc ergo propter hoc’.  In other words the case of Dunnett is almost certainly the cause of the increase in the use of ADR.



Postal rule 


A rule of contract law that makes an exception to the general rule that an acceptance is only created when communicated directly to the offeror.




An acceptance is binding and the contract is said to be perfected when the acceptor places this acceptance in the post box for return mail even if, in fact, it never reaches the offeror.




In Henthorn v Fraser [1892] CA Lord Herschell summarised it as follows:


 "Where the circumstances are such that it must have been within the contemplation of the parties that, according to the ordinary usages of mankind, the post might be used as a means of communicating the acceptance of an offer, the acceptance is complete as soon as it is posted."

Power of attorney 


A document which gives a person the right to make binding decisions for another, as an agent. A power of attorney may be specific to a certain kind of decision or general, in which the agent makes all major decisions for the person who is the subject of the power of attorney.




The person signing the power of attorney is usually referred to, in law, as the donor and the person that would exercise the power of attorney, the donee.  The power can be for a fixed period or enduring.




Significant changes in the law of attorney were made in 2007.

Pręcipe or precipe 


[Latin: used to refer to the actual writ] that would be presented to a court clerk to be officially issued on behalf of the court but now mostly refers to the covering letter from the lawyer (or claimant) which accompanies and formally asks for the writ to be issued by the court officer. The precipe is kept on the court file, but does not accompany the writ when the latter is served on the defendant.



[Latin: forewarn] the words praemunire facias "that you warn" (a person to appear) occur in the writ] An offence against the King or Parliament, in old English law, which led to serious penalties but not capital punishment

Practice form 


"Form to be used for a particular purpose in proceedings, the form and purpose being specified by a practice direction." (Civil Justice Rules).

Pre-action protocol 


"Statements of understanding between legal practitioners and others about pre-action practice and which are approved by a relevant practice direction." (Civil Justice Rules).

Precatory words 


Words that express a wish or a desire rather than a clear command. "Precatory words" are often found in trusts or wills and cause great difficulties when courts try to find the real intention of the settlor or testator.




For example, the words "all my property to my wife to be disposed of as she may deem just and prudent in the interest of my family" were found to be "precatory" and did not constitute a trust for family members other than the wife.



A case which establishes legal principles to a certain set of facts, coming to a certain conclusion, and which is to be followed from that point on when similar or identical facts are before a court.




Precedent form the basis of the theory of stare decisis which prevent "reinventing the wheel" and allows citizens to have a reasonable expectation of the legal solutions which apply in a given situation.

Preferred shares, or preference shares 


A share in a company that has some kind of special right or privilege attached to it, such as that it is distinguished from the company's common shares. The most common special right is a preference over holders of common shares when dividends are declared.




Another, is for the preferred shares to be redeemable at the option of either the holder or the company. Still another might be to disallow voting rights to preferred shareholders. There may be no limit to the qualifications a company can attach to preferred shares. For example, a family company may only allow holders of preferred shares to use a recreational property belonging to the company.



A previous statement from which another is inferred.  A word frequently found in pleadings, e.g. in the premisses it is denied that the Claimant is entitled to the relief claimed 

[variant of premise].



A word describing evidence that persuades a judge or jury to lean to one side as opposed to the other during the course of litigation.  Criminal trials require evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. But in civil trials, evidence is required only by preponderance of the evidence (or the balance of probabilities).




The judge (or jury, where applicable) will perceive the evidence of one side as outweighing the other based on which side has the most persuasive or impressive evidence. The strength or "weight" of evidence is not decided by the sheer number of witnesses because the judge decides on the credibility of witnesses and give their testimony weight accordingly



A method of acquiring rights through the silence of the legal owner. Known in common law jurisdiction as "statute of limitations." When used in a land law context, the term refers to the acquisition of property rights, such as an easement, by long and continued use or enjoyment.




The required duration of continued use or enjoyment, before legal rights are enforceable, is usually 12 years, derived from the Limitation Act 1980, known as "statute of limitations.".



The Presidency of the European Union is held in turn on a six-monthly basis by each member state. A stint in the Presidency is a duty and a contribution that each member state makes to the proper functioning of the Community institutions.

Presumption of advancement 


A presumption in trust, contract and family law which suggests that property transferred from a parent to a child, or spouse to spouse, is a gift and would defeat any presumption of a resulting trust.

Prima facie 


[Latin: A legal presumption which means "on the face of it" or "at first sight"]. Law-makers will often use this device to establish that if a certain set of facts are proven, then another fact is established prima facie.




For example, proof of mailing a letter is prima facie proof that it was received by the person to whom it was addressed and will accepted as such by a court unless proven otherwise.




Other situations may require a prima facie case before proceeding to another step in the judicial process so that you would have to at least prove then that at first glance, there appears to be a case.



Prevailing effect of one system of law over another.



An agent's master; the person for whom an agent has received instruction and to whose benefit the agent is expected to perform and make decisions.

Private Bills


Private Bills are Bills that usually relate to one area, company or individual. The great majority of Private Bills are promoted by local authorities or by private companies. Private Bills are brought in after a petition by the person or organisation that wants a change in the law. These petitions have to be presented to Parliament on or before November 27th each year.




The Chairman of Ways and Means in the Commons and the Lord Chairman of Committees in the Lords decide which Bills should start in the Commons and which in the Lords. In general, substantial local authority legislation and other complex Bills are started in the Lords, but any Bill that is politically contentious is started in the Commons.




The assumption is that a Private Bill will seek rights and powers over and above those sanctioned by public acts or the common law, to which others may wish to object. Parliament therefore requires that the information that a Bill is to be promoted should be given by public advertisements in newspapers, the official gazettes and in writing to all those likely to be affected by a Bill on or before 11 December each year.

Private Members' Bills


Private Members’ Bills are in fact Public bills which have been introduced by a backbench MP and are therefore Bills put before Parliament by individual MPs rather than the Government.




There are three ways for private Members to present bills: under the ballot procedure, under the ten-minute rule and by ordinary presentation.




Apart from uncontroversial bills, only bills presented as a result of the ballot have a realistic chance of becoming law, since only for them is a significant amount of time available for debate on the floor of the House. However, the other methods can provide publicity and, in the case of ten-minute rule bills, the opportunity to make a speech in the Chamber in prime time on a subject of the Member's own choosing.




To present a bill, only the short title and long title (the latter setting out the purposes of the bill) are needed, and there is no obligation ever to provide a text. However until a text has been provided and the bill has been printed, the bill cannot proceed to Second Reading. (Bills cannot be printed before they have been presented.)




On the day of presenting a bill, a 'dummy bill' must be collected from the Public Bill Office

Private law 


Law which regulates the relationships between individuals. Family, commercial and employment law are examples of private law because the focus of those kinds of laws is the relationships between individuals or between corporations or organizations and individual, with the government a bystander. They are the counter part to public law.



A special and exclusive legal advantage or right such as a benefit, exemption, power or immunity. An example would be the special privileges that some persons have in bankruptcy to recoup their debts from the bankrupt's estate before other, non privileged creditors.




Privilege:  The right of a party to refuse to disclose a document or produce a document or to refuse to answer questions on the ground of some special interest recognised by law. (Civil Justice Rules).

Privity of Contract


A common law rule of contract that holds that a contract between two parties can only be enforced, voided, or sued on by those two parties and an a third party cannot do so.




This strict rule had implications when goods were bought for someone else, for example a gift.  Only the purchaser could return the goods because of the rule of privity.




In 1999 the rule was relaxed in some circumstances to make the law more in line with modern contractual practices.




The Contracts (Rights Of Third Parties) Act 1999 implemented, with some amendments, the recommendations of the Law Commission in its Report on Privity of Contract: Contracts for the Benefit of Third Parties, Law Com No 242 (1996).

Privy Council 


The Privy Council is the oldest legislative assembly in the UK.




It dates from the courts of the Norman kings which met in private, hence "privy". 




Before 1688, the monarch and his council were the government, it was then replaced by the cabinet.




Once a month, "councils" are held by the Queen, attended by four ministers and the clerk of the council.  The council obtains Her Majesty's formal approval for orders that have been approved by ministers.




In addition, the Queen approves proclamations - formal notices that cover issues such as the dissolution of Parliament, coinage and the dates of certain bank holidays - through the Privy Council.




Privy Councillors are members of the Queen's own Council: the 'Privy Council'. There are about five hundred members who have reached high public office. Membership includes all members of the Cabinet, past and present, the Speaker, the leaders of all major political parties, Archbishops and various senior judges as well as other senior public figures.




Their role is to advise the Queen in carrying out her duties as Monarch. In the past Privy Councillors were the chief governing body and fulfilled the role that the Cabinet performs today.


During debates in the Commons, MPs who are Privy Councillors are referred to by their colleagues as `The Right Honourable Member'.




In centuries past, the Privy Council served as an advisory board to the monarch and was the first cabinet. "Member of the Privy Council", shown by the letters "P.C." after a surname, is now primarily a ceremonial title.  It only meets in full if a monarch announces marriage or dies.




Appointment to the Privy Council is for life, but only Ministers of the democratically elected Government of the day participate in its policy work.




The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council hears appeals from former colonies.



When a person dies their estate (money, property and possessions) has to be deal with by collecting in all monies, paying any debts and distributing what is left to those people legally entitled to it. In order for a person (or persons) to get the required authority to do this, they usually need to obtain a legal document called a Grant of Representation (either a Grant of Probate or a Grant of Letters of Administration) from the Probate Registry. While most probate transactions are carried out by solicitors, it is possible for a person to carry this out on their own behalf. They are not allowed to do the work for payment.




So, it is the certificate giving authority to deal with someone's estate. When someone has died and left a will, the executors of the estate apply to the court for this authority. The formal certificate given by a court that certifies that a will has been proven, validated and registered and which, from that point on, gives the executor the legal authority to execute the will. A "probate court" is a name given to the court that has this power to ratify wills.

Probate Court


This is part of the Family Division of the High Court of Justice. It issues the certificate called probate.

probate, Grant of


This is a certificate proving that the executors are entitled to deal with the estate. When a person dies the executors fill in various forms for the Probate Registry. The forms are sent to the registry together with the will and the death certificate. A registrar examines all the documents and, once satisfied with everything, arranges the issue of the grant of probate.

Probate Registry


When someone has died the Probate Registry supplies the forms to obtain probate. The executors have to fill in the forms to apply to get the document (probate) from the Probate Court which confirms that the executors have been appointed and that the will is valid

Probation (now called a Community Rehabilitation Order)


A kind of punishment given out as part of a sentence which means that instead of jailing a person convicted of a crime, the court will order that the person reports to a probation officer regularly and according to a set schedule. It is a criminal offence not to obey a Community Rehabilitation Order (formerly called Probation) order and is cause for being immediately jailed.




If someone is "on probation", that means that they are presently under such a Court order. These orders may have special conditions attached to them such as not to leave the city, live at a certain place, not to go to a specific place or contact a certain person.



In relation to evidence; it refers to evidence that tends to prove a fact or persuade as to the truth, often contrasted with evidence that is prejudicial to a defendant and which is not probative.

Pro bono publica 


[Latin: for the public good].  Usually of work done by lawyers free of charge. Pro bono.

Profit ą prendre 


A servitude which resembles an easement and which allows the holder to enter the land of another and to take some natural produce such as mineral deposits, fish or game, timber, crops or pasture.

Pro forma 


As a matter of form; in keeping with a form or practice. Something done pro forma may not be essential but it facilitates future dealings. For example, an invoice might be sent to a purchaser even before the goods are delivered as a matter of business practices

Pro loco et tempore 


[Latin:  'for the place and time']. In Scottish law, it is quite common for a Procurator Fiscal to abandon a case pro loco et tempore, with a view to re-raising it later.

Prohibition - Order of.. 


Prohibition is an order restraining an inferior court or tribunal or a public authority from acting outside its jurisdiction. Thus where, for example, a tribunal is proposing to adjudicate upon some matter which is not within its jurisdiction judicial review will lie and the court can make an order of prohibition.



A legal restriction against the use of something or against certain conduct. For example, in the 1920s, both the USA and Canada enacted liquor prohibitions, outlawing the manufacture or use of alcoholic beverages



A person whom is to be the beneficiary of a promise, an obligation or a contract. Synonymous to "obligee."



The person who has become obliged through a promise (usually expressed in a contract) towards another, the intended beneficiary of the promise being referred to as the promisee. Also sometimes referred to a "obligor."

Promissory note 


An unconditional, written and signed promise to pay a certain amount of money, on demand or at a certain defined date in the future. Contrary to a bill of exchange, a promissory note is not drawn on any third party holding the payor's money; it is a direct promise from the payor to the payee



A hearing on the evidence in a civil  case in Scotland.  It  is not a 'trial'  (unless - and this is rare and getting increasingly rare - there is a Jury, in which case it is called a trial.  In civil cases the Scottish Jury is twelve and not fifteen



This is everything a person owns.  Property is commonly thought of as a thing which belongs to someone and over which a person has total control. But, legally, it is more properly defined as a collection of legal rights over a thing. These rights are usually total and fully enforceable by the state or the owner against others.




It has been said that "property and law were born and die together. Before laws were made there was no property. Take away laws and property ceases."  Before laws were written and enforced, property had no relevance. Possession was all that mattered.




There are many classifications of property, the most common being between real property or immovable property (real estate such as land or buildings) and "chattel", or "moveable" (things which are not attached to the land such as a bicycle, a car or a hammer) and between public (property belonging to everybody or to the state) and private property.



Nearness in place; close-by. Also used to describe relationships as synonymous for "kin.".

Pro possessore 


[Latin: as a possessor]. For example, a person may exercise certain rights over a thing not as owner but pro possessore: as a person who possesses, but does not own, the thing.



Principle requiring that the means used to attain a given end should not exceed what is appropriate and necessary in order to achieve that end.



To offer a document as being authentic or valid. Used mostly in the law of wills; to propound a will means to take legal action, as part of probate, including a formal inspection of the will, by the court.

Pro rata 


[Latin: to divide proportionate to a certain rate or interest]. For example, if a company with two shareholders, one with 25% and the other with 75% of the shares, received a gift of £10,000 and desired to split it "pro rata" between the shareholders, the shareholder with 25% of the shares would receive £2,500 and the 75% shareholder, £7,500.




Pro se 


[Latin: in one's personal behalf. Contrast with pro socio

Pro socio 


[Latin: on behalf of a partner; not on one's personal behalf].



When a parliamentary session comes to an end, the House is prorogued until the next session begins. Prorogation is the formal end to the Parliamentary year.
Following prorogation all Motions, including early day motions, and questions which have not been answered, fall. 




A bill which has not obtained royal assent by the end of the session in which it was introduced usually 'dies', and has to be reintroduced in the next session. 



Forbidden, condemned, denounced.  




Apparently derived from the Roman practice of writing the names of persons sentenced to death, and posting the list in public.




Counter-terrorism laws list groups considered to be terrorist organisations, thus proscribed organisations.  Republican and loyalist organisations involved in the conflict in Northern Ireland have been proscribed, as have the Islamic groups such as Al-Qa'ida.




The Terrorism Act 2000 is the principle legislation for proscribing organisations such as the IRA and the Ulster Defence Association.




An example of adding new organisations as they are formed or identified is The Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) Order 2006




This has important implications for suspects, for example detention after arrest can be for 28 days, Terrorism Act 2006.




Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction was proscribed by Security Council Resolutions 687 (1991)




Hard-core pornographic satellite services are proscribed.




Conduct can be proscribed, for example college and university rules and regulations can ban certain types of student behaviour, for example plagiarism.



To bring judicial proceedings against a person and to administer them until the conclusion of the court proceedings. Crown Prosecution Lawyers are hired by the government to administer the prosecution of criminal charges in the courts (the Crown Prosecution Service).

"Prosecutor's Fallacy, The" 


When considering a DNA sample as proof of guilt it is easy, to draw the following, wrong, conclusion: 


1. Only one person in a million will have a DNA profile which matches that of the crime stain. 


2. The defendant has a DNA profile which matches the crime stain.


3. Ergo there is a million to one probability that the defendant left the crime stain and is guilty of the crime. 




It is fallacious and it has earned the title of 'The Prosecutor's Fallacy' it was one of the reasons, why the appeal against conviction was allowed in R v Deen [1994] CA


1. If one person in a million has a DNA profile which matches that obtained from the crime scene, then the suspect will be 1 of 26 men in the United Kingdom


2. The significance of the DNA evidence will depend critically upon what else is known about the suspect. 


3. If he was near the scene of the crime when it was committed the DNA evidence becomes very significant. 


4. The possibility that two of the only 26 men in the United Kingdom with the matching DNA should have been in the vicinity of the crime will seem almost incredible.


This error was used in a devastating way to convict Sally Clark, see here.



A document in which a corporation sets out the material details of a share or bond issue and inviting the public to invest by purchasing these financial instruments.



A person, man or woman who offers his or her body for payment.   Sexual intercourse need not take place.  See Street Offences Act 1959 s.1 and Sexual Offences Act 1956 and Sexual Offences Act 1985 for the offence of soliciting in a street or public place and other restrictions.   It is not, in itself, illegal to be a prostitute.




..."prostitute" means a person (A) who, on at least one occasion and whether or not compelled to do so, offers or provides sexual services to another person in return for payment or a promise of payment to A or a third person; and "prostitution" is to be interpreted accordingly, section 51(2) Sexual Offences Act 2003




Under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 it is an offence for either a male or female prostitute to solicit for the purposes of prostitution.



Inciting another to respond, usually hostile.
Does not excuse the person provoked who commits an assault, but goes to mitigation.




In cases of homicide, it is available as a defence to reduce the charge from murder to voluntary manslaughter (section 3 Homicide Act 1957).




See Battered Woman Syndrome and


R v Smith (Morgan James) (2000) HL




The latest position appears to be Jersey v Holley [2005] PC

Pro tempore 


[Latin: something done temporarily only and not intended to be permanent].



A right which is signed over to an agent. Proxies are used frequently at annual meetings of corporations where the right to exercise a vote is "proxied" from the shareholder to the agent.

Public Authority


Power to act of a public or state nature.
Person or body invested with power to act or state (as opposed to a private) nature.

Public Bills


Public Bills deal with matters of public policy. Most are introduced to Parliament by the Government. They tend to be general in character and affect everyone.




A Public Bill introduced by a Member who is not a Minister is known as a Private Member's Bill

Public domain 


A term of copyright law referring to works that are not copyright protected, free for all to use without permission. Examples include works that were originally non-copyrightable (items that by their very nature are not eligible for copyright such as ideas, facts or names), copyright that has been lost or expired or where copyright has been specifically granted to the public domain

Public law 


Those laws which regulate

(1) the structure and administration of the government,

(2) the conduct of the government in its relations with the citizens,

(3) the responsibilities of government employees and

(4) the relationships with foreign governments.




Good examples are criminal and constitutional law. It can be distinguished from private law, which regulates the private conduct between individuals, without direct involvement of the government. For example, an unsolicited punch in the nose would constitute a crime for which the government would prosecute under criminal law but for which there would also be a private legal action possible by the injured party under tort law, which is private law although governments can be held responsible under tort law. The line is often hard to draw between public and private law.



(Pronounced 'puny')

Junior or lower in rank. Puisne judges are a rank of judge in the High Court




A puisne mortgage is a mortgage where the deeds of the property have not been deposited with the lender.

Punitive damages, or exemplary damages 


Special and highly exceptional damages ordered by a court against a defendant where the act or omission which caused the suit, was of a particularly heinous, malicious or highhanded nature. Where awarded, they are an exception to the rule that damages are to compensate not to punish.




The exact threshold of punitive damages varies. Punitive damages might even be available for breach of contract cases but only for the exceptional cases where the court wants to give a strong message to the community that similar conduct will be severely punished.




They are most common in intentional torts such as rape, battery or defamation. Some writers prefer using the word "exemplary damages" and there is an ongoing legal debate whether there is a distinction to be made between the two and even with the concept of aggravated damages.



In Scotland the complainant.


Permanent vegetative state


11 In April 1996 the Working Group convened by the Royal College of Physicians defined "the vegetative state" in an article "The Permanent Vegetative State" (1996) 30 Journal of the Royal College of Physicians 119:


"A clinical condition of unawareness of self and environment in which the patient breathes spontaneously, has a stable circulation and shows cycles of eye closure and eye opening which may simulate sleep and waking. This may be a transient stage in the recovery from coma or it may persist until death.

"The continuing vegetative state (CVS). When the vegetative state continues for more than four weeks it becomes increasingly unlikely that the condition is part of a recovery phase from coma and the diagnosis of a continuing vegetative state can thus be made.

"The permanent vegetative state (PVS). A patient in a continuing vegetative state will enter a permanent vegetative state when the diagnosis of irreversibility can be established with a high degree of clinical certainty. It is a diagnosis which is not absolute but based on probabilities. Nevertheless, it may reasonably be made when a patient has been in a continuing vegetative state following head injury for more than 12 months or following other causes of brain damage for more than six months. . ."


Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss in NHS Trust A v M [2001]  Fam, said:


"The college set out the criteria for diagnosis of permanent vegetative state. The report of the college was endorsed by the Conference of Medical Royal Colleges and their Faculties of the United Kingdom. In the United States the report of the Multi-Society Task Force on PVS was published in the New England Journal of Medicine on 26 May 1994. It predates the college report and its findings are similar. The only difference of substance for the purposes of this judgment, as far as I can see, is that the periods suggested before artificial nutrition and hydration might properly be discontinued are shorter than those recommended by the college."


Catherine Roberts


Was diagnosed with PSV and recovered the night before her support machine was to have been turned off. in Poole.  Her case has led to the preparation of new national guidelines for the treatment of coma patients. BBC report, here




Anthony Bland


Leading case that withdrawal of medical treatment is allowed.  Details here.




Karen Ann Quinlan


Catholic parents asked for Karen Ann's ventilator to be switched off in 1976, she breathed independently until 1985.  Her case speeded up the introduction of living wills.  Details here.




Terri Schiavo


 A high profile US case where Terri was allowed to die in 2005, denounced by the Vatican.  News report, here.




Louis Viljoen


A dramatic case in South Africa, of a patient responding after being diagnosed with PVS.  Led to trials of a drug, Zolpidem.  News report, here.


Persistent Young Offender


This is a young person aged 10-17 years who has been sentenced by any criminal court in the UK on three or more occasions for one or more recordable offences and within three years of the last sentencing occasion is subsequently arrested or has an information


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