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Dictionary of legal terms - Q-R
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[Home][Index - Dictionary][Dictionary of legal terms - Q-R]

UK Law Dictionary - English Legal System

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Qualified Majority Voting (QMV)


System of voting in the EU Council under which the vote of each member is weighted by reference to the relative size of the member state which he represents and a majority can be obtained only by a specified number of votes cast by a minimum number of Council members.




The Nice Treaty expanded the areas that can be decided by this method, however the member states refused to surrender the veto in relation to tax matters, core social security policy, regional aid and state subsidies, trade issues affecting cultural and audio-visual matters and core immigration policy.



[Latin: amount or extent.] An expression used to mean the amount of money a successful claimant will receive in a court action.  Also used to refer to the assessment a lawyer (usually a barrister) will make which guides a claimant on whether his case is worth pursuing.




The amount is usually calculated by the judge but in some cases, notably defamation cases it is set by the jury within prescribed limits.  Damages are capped at £200,000.

Quantum meruit 


[Latin: as much as is deserved.]  This is a legal principle under which a person should not be obliged to pay, nor should another be allowed to receive, more than the value of the goods or services exchanged.


Article here.



Refers to decisions made by administrative tribunals or government officials to which the rules of natural justice apply. In judicial decisions, the principles of natural justice always apply. However, between routine government policy decisions and the traditional court forums lies a hybrid, sometimes called a "tribunal" or "administrative tribunal" and not usually presided by judges.




These operate as a government policy making body at times but also exercise a licensing, certifying, approval or other adjudication authority which is "judicial" because it directly affects the legal rights of a person. Some law teachers suggest that there is no such thing as a "quasi-judicial" decision or body; the body or decision is either judicial or not.

Queen's Counsel (King's Counsel)


Senior barrister, selected from applications for their 'learning in the law'.




Recommendations for the award of Queen's Counsel are made by the Queen's Counsel Selection Panel.

Queen's Evidence


Evidence or information given by one defendant against another or evidence about the other's criminal activities in which the informant is not necessarily involved.




Formerly, a common law system by which a defendant could plead guilty and offer Queen's Evidence in return for a discounted sentence.  It is now on a statutory footing by Serious Organised Crime And Police Act.

Quia timet


[Latin: because he fears] A quia timet action is one a claimant may bring to obtain an injunction to prevent or restrain some threatened act, which if it is done would cause him substantial damage and for which money would not be a sufficient or appropriate remedy.




So it would be appropriate for a supporting wall about to be demolished but not a garden fence that is about to be damaged.

Quid pro quo 


[Latin: something for something.] The giving of something in exchange for another thing of equal value.




 "Dit vor dat" means "this for that" in Dutch, and is possibly the origin of "tit for tat" in English. The Dutch expression has the same general meaning as the Latin, quid quo pro. It's also possible that tit for tat evolved from the English, tip for tap, a blow for a blow.



The number of people who must be present at a meeting before business can be conducted. Without "quorum," decisions are invalid. Many organisations have a quorum requirement to prevent decisions being taken without a majority of members present.

Quo warranto 


[Latin: referring to a special legal procedure taken to stop a person or organisation from doing something for which it may not have the legal authority, by demanding to know by what right they exercise the controversial authority.]




Money paid to have a kidnapped person released.



Sex with a woman, including a wife, without her consent. See in America - statutory rape.




(1) A person (A) commits an offence if-


(a) he intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth of another person (B) with his penis,


(b) B does not consent to the penetration, and


(c) A does not reasonably believe that B consents.




(2) Whether a belief is reasonable is to be determined having regard to all the circumstances, including any steps A has taken to ascertain whether B consents.




(3) Sections 75 and 76 apply to an offence under this section.




(4) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable, on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for life.


Section 1 Sexual Offences Act 2003

Real property/realty 


This is land and buildings, minerals in the land and rights over the land. Immovable property such as land or a building or an object that, though at one time a chattel, has become permanently affixed to land or a building.

Rebuttable presumption 


When one fact has been proved in court it is not always necessary to prove a second fact that might flow from the first, the second fact can be inferred from the validity of the first fact. This is a "presumption", which can be either "rebuttable" or "irrebuttable". 


So by way of example, it could follow that if it were raining the ground would be wet.




The ground may be dry if there is a large overhanging canopy, so the wetness does not necessarily flow from the fact that there is rain.  Dryness or wetness is a presumption which can be challenged by introducing evidence of the canopy.




An "irrebuttable" or conclusive presumption is a rule of law, for example a child under 10 cannot commit a crime, no matter what the circumstances that presumption cannot be challenged (rebutted).




An example of a "rebuttable" presumption is that the alcohol in the blood of a drink-driver at the time the accident, or when he was stopped from driving by a police officer was not less than the proportion contained in the specimen (which is taken after the offence). In fact the opposite might be the case, if the defendant could only prove it. See the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988, s. 15(3).




The truth of such a presumption can be displaced by evidence to the contrary.




Another example would be a defendant's innocence.




Thus a rebuttable presumption can reverse the normal burden of proof.



According to art 249 of the EC Treaty (ex art 189), a measure adopted by the European Parliament acting jointly with the Council, the Council and the Commission, which ‘shall have no binding force.’





A recorder is a judge who sits in the Crown Court, County Court and sometimes as a part-time judge in the High Court.  Appointed from the ranks of  barristers or solicitors, an applicant will have at least 10 years standing




By section 21 of the Courts Act 1971 recorders act as part-time judges of the Crown Court. The statutory jurisdiction of a recorder is in general identical to that of a Circuit Judge, although recorders do not normally deal with appeals or committals for sentence in the Crown Court and, particularly in the early stages of their appointment, are not likely to deal with the more important and complex cases in the courts at which they sit.




A recorder came into being as someone who took notes at local authority meetings and gradually the incumbent became legally qualified.



This is an old civil and canon law term. To refuse to do something; often used to describe the behaviour of a judge, arbitrator or other court official who in the face of unacceptable behaviour or embarrassing situation leaves the court room.  Often used in the reflexive form "he recused himself".




To reject a judge in a particular case as unsuitable through having a real or apparent interest in the case, a perception of bias.




In 1999, at Winchester Crown Court, Judge Patrick Hooton, who has participated in pheasant shoots, recused himself from presiding in a case involving an animal rights protester.




The Court of Appeal has said that recusal should not be based on "the religion, ethnic or national origin, gender, age, class, means or sexual orientation of the judge".



Buying back. When a vendor later buys the property back. A right of redemption gives the vendor the right to buy back the property. Where a mortgage transfers title to the lender until the mortgage is paid off, the "buying back" of the property is known as redemption.



According to art 249 of the EC Treaty (ex art 189), a measure adopted by the European Parliament acting jointly with the Council, the Council and the Commission, which ‘shall have general application. It shall be binding in its entirety and directly applicable in all Member States.’



The person who requests an action is brought by the Attorney General to enforce a public right. The Attorney General can refuse. The relator is not the claimant but he is liable for the costs of the proceedings.




The Attorney General's discretion to to sue or not to sue on behalf of the relator is absolute and cannot be reviewed by the court.



A right to future enjoyment or ownership of real property. The "left-over" after property has been conveyed first to another party. A remainder interest is what if left-over after a life estate has run its course. Contrary to a reversion, a remainder does not go to the grantor or his (or her) heirs.



Abbreviation for "reciprocal enforcement of maintenance orders" and the name of the international system of recognition, registration and enforcement of child and spousal support orders between countries which have agreed, between themselves, to enforce each other's maintenance orders. Originally created by England, the international REMO system now spreads over many countries.




In the USA, the system is known as UIFSA or URESA.



This is the consideration paid by a tenant to a landlord in exchange for the exclusive use and enjoyment of land, a building or a part of a building. Under normal circumstances, the rent is paid in money and at regular intervals, such as the first of every month. The word has also come to be used as a verb as in to "rent a flat," although the proper legal term would be to "lease an flat."



A legal action taken to reclaim goods which have been distrained.

Repudiate Repudiation: 


Where by words or conduct a party indicates that he does not consider a pervious obligation as binding.  Most commonly used in contract law were a party repudiates a contract by refusing to perform according to its terms.  In effect saying I don't want any more to do with it.

Rerum natura


In existence. In the nature of things. 


Used to describe an independent being born of its mother, a reasonable creature, that is alive at birth.




Historically, writers such as Bracton, Coke, Blackstone, Locke and Hobbes, upheld a concept that a child born so deformed it could be described as a monster.  Siamese (conjoined) twins were historically considered monsters. Different considerations would clearly apply today.




Lord Justice Ward in Re: A (Children) (2000) said, "I deprecate any idea of "monstrous birth"."



To abrogate or cancel a contract putting the parties in the same position they would have been in had there been no contract.  Rescission can occur in one of two ways: either a contract can be set aside (rescinded) because of some defect in its formation (such as misrepresentation, duress or undue influence) or it can be set aside by agreement by the parties, for example if they reach a new agreement.

Reserved judgment


A reserved judgment is usually, but not always, a written judgment, which is given a few days or even weeks after the hearing.




By contrast, ex tempore judgments are given orally at the end of the hearing.




Because a reserved judgment is a considered judgment it usually carries more weight than one delivered ex tempore  'off the cuff' at the conclusion of counsel's argument.




The law reports signify a reserved judgment by the words cuna advisari volt ('the court wishes to consider the matter'). Often abbreviated to cur. adv. volt or C.A.E




In the House of Lords their Lordships 'take time for consideration', which means the same thing. Although sometimes the House of Lords announce the actual decision at the end of counsel's argument - without giving their reasons at that time - their opinions are always reserved.




In general conversation "I shall reserve my judgment" is used to mean, "I'll think about it".



This is all that is left of an estate after all debts, taxes and specific legacies have been paid. It will be shared out according to the instructions in the will.

Res gestae 


[Latin: things done].   A peculiar rule, used mostly in criminal cases, which allows hearsay if the statement is made during the excitement of the litigated event. For example, the words "stick 'em up!" used during an armed robbery would be admissible in evidence under the res gestae rule.




So, too, would spontaneous statements made by the defendant during or right after the crime.




Res gestae statements can be introduced in evidence in special kinds of prosecutions. For example, in child sexual abuse cases, the statement made by a child to another person may be allowed as evidence although, technically, it offends the rule against hearsay. This is to recognise the trauma of having a child testify in open court on the subject of her or his abuse. Res gestae evidence usually requires a voir dire hearing before it is admissible unless the defines allows it to be put on the trial record unchallenged.

Res ipsa loquitur 


[Latin: the thing speaks for itself].  An expression used in tort to refer to situations where negligence is presumed on the defendant since the object causing injury was in his or her control.




This is a presumption that can be rebutted by showing that the event was an inevitable accident and had nothing to do with the defendant's responsibility of control or supervision. An example of res ipsa loquitur would be being hit by a falling sack of sugar in a dock loading area. The event itself imputes negligence (res ipsa loquitur) and can only be defeated if the defendant can show that the event was a total and inevitable accident.

Res integra


[Latin: A point not governed by an earlier decision, or by a rule of law. It therefore needs to be decided, on general principle, for the first time]

Res judicata 


[Latin: A matter that has already been conclusively decided by a court]

The courts will not re-determine a question already validly determined; a judgment finally and conclusively determines the rights and liabilities of the parties to it and becomes res judicata so as to bar further litigation, this is important to the parties to the dispute but not otherwise.



The party that "responds to" a claim filed in court against them by a claimant. The more common term is defendant. The word is also used to refer to the party who wins at the first court level but who must then respond to an appeal launched by the party that lost the case at the first court level (upon appeal, this latter person is called the appellant).

Restitutio in integrum 


[Latin: restitution to the original position.] In contract law, upon breach of contract, the injured party may ask the court to reverse the contract and revert the parties to their respective positions before the contract was accepted. But if the court finds that restitutio in integrum is not possible because of actions or events occurring since the date of acceptance, then the court may order that damages be paid instead.



Under ancient English common law, when a party enforced a court judgment and then that judgment was overturned on appeal, the appellant could ask the appeal court for "restitution", or financial compensation placing that appellant in the same position as if the original legal decision had not been enforced.




A new strain of common law has also developed called "restitution", closely associated with unjust enrichment, whereby a person is deprived of something of value belonging to them, can ask a court to order "restitution". The best example is asking a court to reverse or correct a payment made in error.

Resulting trust 


A trust that is presumed by the court from certain situations. Similar to a constructive trust but for resulting trusts, the court presumes an intention to create a trust; the law assumes that the property is not held by the right person and that the possessor is only holding the property "in trust" for the rightful owner. In constructive trusts, the courts do not even bother with presuming an intention; they simply impose a trust from the facts.



A contract between a lawyer and his (or her) client, wherein the lawyer agrees to represent and provide legal advice to the client, in exchange for money. The signed retainer begins the client lawyer relationship from which flow many responsibilities and duties, primarily on the lawyer, including to provide accurate legal advice, to monitor limitation dates and to not allow any conflict of interest with the relationship with the client.



A future interest left in a transferor or his (or her) heirs. A reservation in a real property conveyance that the property reverts back to the original owner upon the occurrence of a certain event.




For example, Jim gives Bob a building using the words "to Bob for life." Upon the death of Bob, the property reverts back to Jim or to Jim's heirs. Differs from a remainder in that a remainder takes effect by an act of the parties involved. A reversion takes effect by operation of the law. Nor is a reversion a "left-over" as is a remainder. Rather, it reverts the entire property.



To revoke something is to cancel it or withdraw it.

Right of first refusal 


A right given to a person to be the first person allowed to purchase a certain object if it is ever offered for sale. The owner of this right is the first to be offered the designated object if it is ever to be offered for sale.

Riparian rights 


Special rights of people who own land that runs into a riverbank (a "riparian owner" is a person who owns land that runs into a river). While not an ownership right, riparian rights include the right of access to, and use of the water for domestic purposes (bathing, cleaning and navigating). The extent of these rights varies and may include the right to build a wharf outwards to a navigable depth or to take emergency measures to prevent flooding.



Theft Act 1968, s. 8  "A person is guilty of robbery if he steals, and immediately before or at the time of doing so, and in order to do so, he uses force on any person or puts or seeks to put any person in fear of being then and there subjected to force.  A person guilty of robbery, or of an assault with intent to rob, shall on conviction on indictment be liable to imprisonment for life".

Royal Assent


The formal consent of the Crown to legislation.  The last procedure by Parliament in the passage of a bill, at the moment of consent it becomes an Act.




The procedure is a formal agreeing to bills which have proceeded through the parliamentary process, the consent is given by commissioners in Norman French.




The words used on behalf of Her Majesty are "La Reine le veult" the Queen wishes it, pronounced "a wren le vurlt".

Royal Prerogative 


The special rights, powers, and immunities to which the Crown alone is entitled under the common law.




Most prerogative acts are now performed by the government on behalf of the Crown. Some, however, are performed by the sovereign in person on the advice of the government (e.g. the dissolution of Parliament) or as required by constitutional convention (e.g. the appointment of a Prime Minister). A few prerogative acts (e.g. the granting of certain honours, such as the Order of the Garter) are performed in accordance with the sovereign's personal wishes.




The Crown has limited powers of legislating under the prerogative, principally as respects the civil service and UK dependent territories. It does so by Order in Council, ordinance, letters patent, or royal warrant.




The dissolution and prorogation of Parliament and the granting of the royal assent to Bills take place under the prerogative.




Originally the fountain of justice from which the first courts of law sprang, the Crown still exercises (through the Home Secretary) the prerogative of mercy and retains the right (through the Attorney General) to stop a prosecution by entering a nolle prosequi. In foreign affairs, the sovereign declares war, makes peace and international treaties, and issues passports under the prerogative.




Many appointments (e.g. the higher judiciary, archbishops, and diocesan bishops) are made under the prerogative, and a variety of honours, including new hereditary peerages, are conferred by the Crown as the fountain of honour.




The sovereign is head of the armed forces, and, although much of the law governing these is now statutory, their disposition generally remains a matter for the prerogative.




There is a prerogative power, subject to the payment of compensation, to expropriate or requisition private property in times of war or apprehended war.




Miscellaneous prerogative rights include the rights to treasure trove and to bona vacantia.




An important immunity of the sovereign is the prerogative of perfection. The common-law maxim that "the King can do no wrong" resulted in the complete immunity of the sovereign personally from all civil and criminal proceedings for anything that he or she might do. This personal immunity remains, but actions may now be brought against the Crown under the Crown Proceedings Act 1947.




Prerogative orders can be reviewed, in most cases, by the courts.

In 2007 the Court of Appeal ruled that the Chagos Islanders had been wrongly expelled by the Foreign Secretary from their homes in the Indian Ocean.




Dismissing the Government's claim that it could exercise "sovereign" powers when legislating for a British colony, Lord Justice Sedley said the Foreign Secretary's argument might, to borrow Lord Atkin's words, "have been addressed acceptably to the Court of King's Bench in the time of Charles I". If the Court of Appeal had ruled that Orders in Council exiling the Chagossians were not liable to judicial review, it would have been "creating an area of ministerial action free both of Parliamentary control and of judicial oversight".




If a statute confers on the Crown powers that duplicate prerogative powers, the latter are suspended during the existence of the statute unless it either abolishes them or preserves them as alternative powers.

Rule against perpetuities 


A common law rule that prevents suspending the transfer of property for more then 21 years or a lifetime plus 21 years. For example, if a will proposes the transfer of an estate to some future date, which is uncertain, for either more than 21 years after the death of the testator or for the life of a person identified in the will and 21 years, the transfer is void. Statute law exists which supersedes the common law rule.



"To Cross the Rubicon", a phrase enjoyed by judges, and a general expression for taking a dangerous, decisive, and irreversible step or decision.




The Rubicon is a river in Northern Italy crossed by Julius Caesar with his army, in violation of the orders of the leaders in Rome, who feared his power. A civil war followed, in which Caesar emerged as ruler of Rome. Caesar is supposed to have said, “The die is cast” (referring to a roll of dice), as he crossed the river.


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