Glossary - Taking You from Justice to Job
This helpful guide simply explains the processes, terminology and legal language that people experience from when they first enter the justice system to when they gain employment after release. If you would like any terminology or processes added to this glossary or if you have any resettlement related questions, please contact the author.
NB: The author has used his best endeavours as a layperson to ensure that all information is correct and current in the UK. Laws, rules and processes may be different in Scotland. This page is for general guidance only, the content should not be relied upon in isolation and nothing within in constitutes legal, financial or medical advice. Personal advice should be sought from qualified third parties. No liability is accepted at law for the outcome of any decisions made whilst relying on the content of this webpage.
Aggravating Factor - Something that worsens
Aggravating factors are considerations that increase the severity of a crime and the sentence given. Examples include continuing to commit crime whilst on bail, abuse of a position of trust, substantial and deliberate pre-planning, exploitation of vulnerable victims, intimidation of witnesses etc. These are the opposite of mitigating factors.
AL - Application Letter
This letter introduces your CV and your Personal Disclosure Statement. AL is also known as an introduction or covering letter.
Appeal -Application to reconsider a sentence or overturn a conviction
An appeal can be made by any convicted person who feels they have grounds for the conviction to be overturned or for the sentence to be reduced. The prosecution can also appeal sentence lengths under the ‘unduly lenient scheme’.
The first stage of an appeal goes to a single judge, it can be funded by legal aid (for eligible appellants) and there is no risk of a loss of time order. If the single judge feels that the appeal has:
- a) Merit - the appeal can be renewed to a panel of three judges, legal aid would continue and there is no risk of a loss of time order.
- b) No merit - the appeal can still be renewed but legal aid stops and there is a risk of loss of time. This risk increases substantially if a warning box is ticked on the single judge’s decision notice. In these cases, the loss of time order could be for the entire amount of time served from when the appeal is first refused, up to when the renewed appeal is heard. If the box is not ticked then there is still a risk of loss of time, but it is a lesser risk and usually a smaller loss of time of 28-56 days.
Bail - A type of licence
Bail allows people who have been accused of crimes (and who present as low risk of harm to the public) to continue to reside at their homes in the following circumstances:
· Whilst the crime is being investigated.
· Between charging and conviction.
· Between conviction and sentencing.
· Between sentencing and imprisonment.
· Whilst an appeal is waiting to be heard.
Burden of Proof and Standard of Proof
The burden of proof means who is responsible for proving something. In a criminal trial the burden of proof falls to the Prosecution to prove guilt; theoretically, it does not fall to the Defence to prove innocence.
The standard (level of proof) is different for criminal and civil trials:
- Criminal trials must meet a standard of proof known as ‘beyond all reasonable doubt’; technically, the jury must be 99% sure before they can convict.
- Civil trials must meet a much lower standard of proof known as ‘balance of probabilities’. The judge only needs to be more sure than not, meaning 51% sure before they can rule in favour of one party.
Categorisation - Risk level and accommodating individuals appropriately
The categories in the UK prison estate range from higher security categories AA (Maximum Security), A and B, and C cat and the lowest security D cat (resettlement prisons) - known as open conditions.
CCRC - Criminal Cases Review Commission
The Criminal Cases Review Commission investigates possible miscarriages of justice they are the last-ditch body for appeals against conviction and /or sentence. The CCRC will only investigate cases where an appeal has failed and where there is new evidence or argument that has not previously been seen or heard by the court, or by the court of appeal.
The CCRC refer a very small percentage of cases for appeal but if they do then the applicant is not at risk of any extra time being added to their sentence (loss of time order). Unlike the normal appeal process, when the CCRC are successful in overturning a conviction, compensation can be claimed by the wrongly imprisoned person.
The equivalent body in Scotland is the SCCRC.
Charging - Formally accused of an offence
The police have decided that there is enough evidence to refer the case to the CPS for a charging decision and the CPS have subsequently given the police permission to formally charge (accuse) a person with the crime. A date will be set for Magistrates Court who will either hear the case or refer the matter to the Crown Court if it is deemed serious.
Circa - Approximately
Used in job adverts to mean ‘in the region of’ e.g. ‘Salary circa £24,000 pa’ means that the salary will be around £24,000 a year depending on the applicant’s skills, experience, qualifications and ability to negotiate.
Concurrent - At the same time (the opposite of consecutive)
Frequently when a person is convicted, they will have committed multiple offences or committed the same offence multiple times. If the crime is similar, or if it forms part of the same overall criminality within the same timeframe, then the multiple sentences will usually run concurrently. e.g. someone who committed two crimes with a sentence of 2 years for each crime, concurrently, would receive a 2-year total prison sentence.
Confiscation Order - An amount of money which a defendant must pay after a POCA Confiscation Hearing
When a Confiscation Order (See POCA) is generated, a defendant generally has 3 months to pay the full amount of the order or to apply to extend based on legitimate reasons e.g. sale of the house not completed yet. Where a defendant deliberately does not pay, a default prison sentence is issued. This prison sentence is usually similar in length to the original prison sentence issued by the criminal court.
Even after the serving of a default prison sentence, confiscation orders remain due and enforceable for life; the debt cannot be extinguished until it is paid.
Consecutive - Following on from (the opposite of concurrent)
Frequently when a person is convicted, they will have committed multiple offences or committed the same offence multiple times. If the crimes are serious or very different from each other, then the multiple sentences will be usually run consecutively. e.g. someone sentenced to 2 years for each of 2 crimes, consecutively, would receive a 4-year total sentence.
Conviction - An offence has been admitted or proven in court
Conviction is the point at which someone is now guilty of an offence; they may have pleaded guilty but at guilty they were found guilty by a jury or they may have pleaded guilty without a trial.
CPS - Crown Prosecution Service (aka The Crown)
The organisation which conducts most criminal prosecutions in the UK. The CPS regularly review charging decisions and court proceedings to ensure that the prosecution has a reasonable chance of success and is in the public interest. N.B. this does not mean that the public are interested in it but rather means that a prosecution would be of benefit to society.
CRC - Community Rehabilitation Company
Privatised probation monitoring the lowest risk and shortest sentenced prisoners when they begin their supervision in the community. CRC delivers ‘through the gate’ services for MOJ including delivery of resettlement courses, (such as ‘Getting it Right’ and ‘Thinking Skills Programme’) and provide resettlement support such as making referrals to housing charities and councils. Most CRC contracts are ending in 2020 due to poor outcomes.
CRL - Childcare Resettlement Leave
A form of ROTL where a prisoner is allowed to leave the prison for a set period of time to look after their child or children.
CRL is subject to risk assessments and passing FLED. Only for those parents who are the sole carer for a child or vulnerable adult are eligible. These criteria are very hard to meet because someone else will obviously be looking after the child in the place of a parent, when a parent goes to prison. It is for this reason that CRL is exceptionally rare.
CSU - Care and Separation Unit
CSU is a recent rebranding of Segregation unit to reflect a move towards compassion and rehabilitation. See SEG.
CV - also known as résumé - Curriculum Vitae
A formal document which provides an overview of your personal strengths, qualifications and employment experience.
DBIS - Department for Business, Insolvency and Skills
A department of Government that often undertakes criminal prosecutions for business offences. Sometimes they act on behalf of, or alongside, the Insolvency Service or Trading Standards.
DBS - Disclosure and Barring Service
Maintain a database of criminal convictions and related intelligence and provides access to approved organisations for DBS checks.
Defence - Acting for accused and convicted people
The defence team are tasked with protecting their client and serving the client’s best interests, they do this by:
· Advising and supporting their client/ defendant.
· Persuading them to plead guilty to benefit from a reduced sentence.
· Identifying weaknesses in the prosecution’s evidence and casting doubt on their assumptions, assertions and arguments.
· In the case of conviction, arguing for a lesser punishment by explaining mitigating factors and relevant historic cases.
Determinate - Prison sentence with an end date
Also known as a ‘straight sentence’. A determinate sentence has a fixed end date. The prisoner is released at their ERD and unless they are recalled, will stay on licence in the community until their LED.
Disclosure - Revealing a criminal conviction
Disclosure of criminal convictions is usually requested by employers, insurance companies, financial institutions and before travelling to most other countries. Full disclosure includes all unspent convictions, sentence lengths and background circumstances and is usually done on a Personal Disclosure Statement (PDS).
Discretionary - There is a choice
A discretionary life sentence means that it was the judge’s choice to hand out a life sentence - this is the opposite of mandatory.
EDS - Extended Determinate Sentence
A prison sentence used where the risk to the public is higher than normal and rehabilitation is unpredictable; almost as a middle ground between determinate and indeterminate. With EDS the prisoner is not released at the halfway point (as is usually the case) but instead serves 2/3 of the sentence and only then becomes eligible for parole (consideration for release). EDS prisoners have extended supervision, under licence in the community which are set at the time of sentencing, typically being 1 or 2 years after the full sentence end.
ERD - Earliest Release Date
The date when 50% of a standard determinate custodial sentence has been served. At this point (or the day preceding it, in the case of weekend and bank holiday) the prisoner will be released to serve the remaining time on licence in the community, unless recalled for a breach of licence conditions or charged with a new offence.
FLED - Facility Licence Eligibility Date
The date when a prisoner has served 50% of their custodial period or when they have 2 years left to serve, whichever date is the latter. A prisoner becomes eligible to apply for ROTL for resettlement purposes (family ties, interviews, work, driving lessons etc.). SPL is not dependent on FLED having been passed although these will usually be escorted by prison staff prior to FLED.
HDC - Home Detention Curfew
A home monitoring system that allows the lowest risk determinate sentenced prisoners to be released earlier that their ERD to an approved address (usually home) and subject to a curfew (usually 7pm-7am). The prisoner can serve up to a maximum of 4.5 months on HDC but in the case of weekend and bank holidays will be released the day after.
Under current rules, HDC is only available to those prisoners who are sentenced to less than 4 years imprisonment.
Indeterminate - Undecided/not fixed
A sentence which does not have a fixed end date (IPP or life). Parole must be granted before an indeterminate sentenced prisoner can be released and they will be subject to a life licence (monitoring and accountability).
IPP - Imprisonment for Public Protection
A controversial and now abolished type of Indeterminate prison sentence. The sentence came with a minimum tariff and a minimum of ten years’ supervision under licence upon release. Despite its abolition, thousands of people are still serving IPP sentences in prison and many years over their tariffs. Recent changes to the Parole test have seen more prisoners being released or re-categorised to D Category to be “tested in open conditions”.
LED - Licence Expiry Date
The date when a released prisoner is no longer monitored by probation and is informally considered to have become an “ex-offender”.
Licence Conditions - Restrictions and Requirements for the second half of a determinate sentence
or for indeterminate sentence prisoners who are granted parole.
Prisoners are released under licensed supervision by The Probation Service (or CRC for the lowest risk prisoners) in the community. There are three purposes of supervision which are to:
- 1) Help resettlement.
- 2) Protect the public.
- 3) Prevent re-offending.
- 1. Be of good behaviour.
- 2. Only carry out pre-approved work.
- 3. Allow probation to visit as required.
- 4. Keep in touch with probation as required.
- 5. Reside permanently at a pre-approved address.
- 6. Not travel outside of the UK without permission.
- 7. Not to touch or use fireworks or any objects containing gun powder.
Loss of Time Order - Penalty for unmeritworthy appeals
A loss of time order can be made for any appeal which is renewed to the panel of three appeal judges after rejection by the first judge and which is deemed to have no merit. A loss of time order can be for the entire amount of time served, from when the appeal is first refused, up to when the renewed appeal is heard, to no longer count towards the sentence. Such a penalty is rare however and is reserved for the most frivolous of appeals. More usually, the loss of time order is in the region of 1 - 2 months.
Mandatory - No Choice (the opposite of discretionary)
There is no choice. A mandatory life sentence means that the judge had no choice but to hand out a life sentence.
MAPPA - Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangement
MAPPA is the name given to police, prison service and probation (the “responsible authorities”) who work together to assess and manage the most serious offenders who pose a high risk of harm to the public. Cooperation is required from other agencies as well including housing, health, social services and education services. All agencies contribute to the creation of a personalised risk management plan for each individual offender. MAPPA offenders are categorised from 1 to 3 with 1 being the highest and 3 lowest risk. The multi-agency management is then tiered from Level 1 to Level 3 with 1 (reversely) being the lowest and 3 being the highest level of monitoring and management.
Mitigating Factors (Mitigation) - Something that lessens
Mitigating factors are considerations that reduce the severity of a crime and the sentence that will be given. Mitigation covers a wide range of possible circumstances and may include repaying money taken by fraud, references provided by respected people, poor mental/ emotional state, medical aid given to a victim, previous good character etc. These are the opposite of aggravating factors.
MOJ - Ministry of Justice
The Government department responsible for the management of the court system, prisons, prisoners and ex-offenders.
National Vocational Qualification
Widely recognised qualifications related to employment and careers e.g. Bricklaying, Catering, Customer Service or Childcare.
OASys - Offender Assessment System
OASys is a substantial and detailed record which is designed to help with sentence planning and manage, and reduce the risk of reoffending. OASys contains a wealth of historic, current and future information such as housing, family, education, employment, finances, associates, mental and physical health, lifestyle, drug and alcohol misuse, attitudes, thinking, emotional management, courses completed, background and reasons for offences, and may also include verified and unverified information from court records, police intelligence and other agencies.
This information is invaluable when identifying ‘criminogenic needs’ i.e. those areas which are problematic for the offender and which are likely to trigger re-offending, e.g. someone who has:
- Challenges gaining employment due to a lack of functional skills may be required to attend Maths and English classes.
- Problems with their family ties will be able to complete a course on personal and family relationships as part of their sentence plan.
- An identified problem with past criminal associates may have an additional licence condition on release banning them from associating with known criminals.
OASys is respected worldwide but it is only as accurate as the information placed into it by people; much of which is based on opinions rather than evidence and it is for this reason that many question its accuracy and impartiality.
Prisoners and ex-offenders can get a copy of their OASys by sending a SAR to Data Protection Compliance, MOJ, 16 NDC, Burton Road, Branston, Burton Upon Trent, Staffordshire. DE14 3EG
OMU - Offender Management Unit
The OMU is the department within prison which is responsible for sentence planning.
The majority of prisoners are allocated an Offender Supervisor (OS) within OMU and an Offender Manager (OM) from outside Probation. The OS and OM liaise with offenders, police and prison staff to create and update OASys and a sentence plan.
Parole - The board which considers whether a prisoner should be released or re-categorised
Parole means consideration for release from prison, under supervision in the community.
The Parole board will only consider releasing indeterminate sentenced prisoners (around 5% of prison population) when they are satisfied that their risk has been reduced enough that they can be managed in the community. An alternative to release, or precursor to release, is for the prisoner to be re-categorised to D- category to be “tested in open conditions”.
“Overall the serious rate of re-offending is less than 1%, which suggests that the Parole board makes the best decisions it can.” Dean Kingham, Head of Prison Law and Crime, Swain and Co Solicitors
POCA - Proceeds of Crime Act
Civil proceedings aimed at removing the benefit of criminal conduct. The Act is “deliberately draconian” (with far reaching extreme consequences for criminals, families and associates) apparently to serve as a deterrent rather than punish further.
A benefit figure is arrived at by adding conviction amounts to unexplained income over 6 years, civil claims and adjusting the total for inflation. The benefit figure is based on turnover not retained profit, hence why it is almost always substantially more (by many multiples) than the real amount by which the criminal benefitted. Once a benefit figure is established, investigation into assets and past transactions will uncover tainted gifts, sales at undervalue, realisable and hidden assets.
A confiscation order will be generated for the amount of the realisable assets together with any assets or money deemed to be hidden. POCA trials are based on balance of probabilities (see Burden of Proof and Standard of Proof).
Proprietary - ownership
Owned by the worker typically self-employment as a sole trader.
Pro Rata - In the ratio
Used when advertising part-time jobs to show the equivalent annual salary.
A 20hrs per week part-time work salary of £24,000pa pro rata means that the salary you receive will be £12,000 each year (because 20hrs per week is half of the usual 40hrs per week you will receive half of £24,000).
Prosecution - Acting on behalf of a prosecuting authority (usually CPS) against the accused and convicted
The prosecution team are primarily focussed on:
- Providing enough evidence of a person’s guilt and presenting it in a compelling way such that it encourages an accused person to plead guilty.
- Proving and/or convincing jury members of an accused person’s guilt.
- Arguing for the harshest punishment after conviction, explaining aggravating factors and relevant historic cases.
RDR - Resettlement Day Release
A form of ROTL where a prisoner can leave the prison for a set period of time to undertake resettlement activities e.g. to rebuild family ties, attend employment or university. Subject to passing FLED and risk assessments, eligibility (not entitlement, nor guaranteed) for RDR for family ties purposes is generally a maximum of 1 RDR every fourteen days. RDR for other purposeful activities e.g. attending employment or driving lessons does not affect the allowance for family ties.
Recidivism - Re-offending
Returning to patterns of past behaviour; usually used in the context of “reducing recidivism”.
Recall - Being returned back to prison
Returning a prisoner, who has been released on licence, back to prison.
Any person on licence can be recalled by probation for a range of reasons including, but not limited to:
· A perceived increase in their risk.
· An allegation made by a third party.
· They have been charged with a new offence.
· They are in breach of any licence conditions.
No court process is required for recall decisions.
Remand - Imprisonment before trial (the opposite of bail)
Remand is supposedly reserved for people accused of the most serious crimes, who pose a flight risk or who face overwhelming evidence of guilt of a crime that would definitely result in imprisonment. Many thousands of people are remanded into prison and kept for long periods of time before they have been found guilty of any crime. Many are released from prison after being found not guilty and they receive no compensation, little or no resettlement support and do not even qualify for the £46 discharge grant because they are not considered to have been serving a prison sentence.
Right to be Forgotten - Legal entitlement to request an end to linking to historic online content
Under Right to be Forgotten you can request that search engines no longer link to historic articles and web pages which feature you if the content is out of date and/or no long relevant. Many search engines will argue against de-indexing stating that listings are still in the public interest or that subjects are still being discussed.
ROR - Resettlement Overnight Release
A form of ROTL where a prisoner is allowed to stay overnight at their home, approved premises (hostel) or resettlement address. Subject to passing FLED and risk assessments, eligibility (not entitlement, nor guaranteed) is generally 1 ROR every 28 days.
- First ROR is generally 2 nights/ 3 days.
- Second ROR is generally 3 nights/ 4 days.
- Third and subsequent ROR’s 4 nights/ 5 days.
ROTL - Release on Temporary Licence
Permission to leave the prison temporarily under certain conditions (available after FLED).
All ROTL is at the Governor’s discretion and is subject to police and probation checks.
ROTL may be CRL, RDR, ROR or SPL.
SAR - Subject Access Request
A letter requesting a copy of all personal information held on you under the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR’s). No fee is payable for the provision of this information unless a request is repeated or excessive. Here is a template - an example of the wording to use:
Dear Sir/ Madam,
I am writing this letter to you as a Subject Access Request.
My date of birth is _________ and I enclose evidence of my identification. Enclose copy of driving licence, birth certificate or passport, (serving prisoners writing to MOJ, will not need id.)
I am the subject and owner of substantial amounts of data that you hold and I formally request ALL such information.
In line with the revised GDPRs I understand that the timescale for fulfilment is now one calendar month and that there is no longer a fee to be paid.
I believe that this satisfies the requirements of the GDPRs; should you require additional confirmation of my identification or if you require a template form to be completed, please advise immediately by return.
Thank you in advance for your kind attention,
SCPO - Serious Crime Prevention Order
Designed to prevent or disrupt future crime, these orders are effectively personalised laws which place requirements or restrictions on ex-offenders after release from prison. Restrictions may include only having one mobile phone, one bank account, one vehicle and to provide full details to the police, not to conduct certain types of transactions, not to carry more than £100 in cash, not to access certain websites etc. SCPO’s run separately from licence conditions and can continue after a licence has finished. Suspected breaches can result in recall and proven breaches can result in up to 5 years in prison, based on the low, civil, rather than criminal, burden of proof.
SED - Sentence Expiry Date
Usually called LED (Licence expiry date)
SEG - Segregation Unit aka Care and Separation unit (CSU) or ‘The Block.’
Single cells in a higher security part of each prison where each prisoner is subject to intense monitoring and a restricted regime. People are sent to the Seg for many reasons, sometimes for their own protection, for control or behavioural issues or prior to being ‘swagged’. Prisoners who are the hardest to manage, who have been violent, unpredictable or involved in drug supply in the prison can be managed better in segregation where officers are able to wear body protection and follow specialist safety protocols. Generally, prisoners in the Seg get daily access to phone calls, showers and exercise and a limited range of library books. Conduct and the need for segregation is regularly reviewed.
Sentencing - Deciding on the punishment
The process that a judge works through to decide the most appropriate level of punishment. There are sentencing guidelines for each offence and for the brackets (levels) of culpability. Previous cases are researched for guidance, known as ‘authority’ to help with sentencing. Consideration is given to aggravating factors put forwards by the prosecution and mitigating factors put forwards by the defence, to finally arrive at the sentence. There is a lot of discretion in sentencing and many sentences are successfully appealed where they are considered to be “manifestly excessive” (too long) or unduly lenient (too short).
Spent Convictions - No longer disclosable
Convictions resulting in prison sentences of 4 years and less become spent after a certain period under The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act unless they overlap with further convictions in which case, they do not become spent until and unless the later ones do. Spent convictions do not need to be disclosed but they may still show on Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks. If this is the case, you may prefer to still disclose and explain your side of the story upfront. Original news and commentary may remain accessible online and links to these may still show in search engine listings. The Right to be Forgotten can be used to de-index listings unless they are still deemed to be in the public interest.
SPL - Special Purpose Licence
A form of ROTL which can be applied for at any time during a prison sentence, purposes include attending medical appointments or funerals of close family members.
Suspended Sentence - Delayed subject to certain conditions
A prison sentence that is not served unless the convicted person commits another crime during the period of the suspended sentence. If another sentence is ordered, then the new sentence will usually run consecutively to the triggered/ activated suspended sentence. Suspended sentences count the same as normal prison sentences for disclosure purposes i.e. they have the same rehabilitation period before they become “spent”
Swagged - aka Ghosted/ Shipped out - Suddenly transferred between prisons
Involuntary transfers to different prisons due to security concerns or overcrowding. These are different to resettlement or re-categorisation transfers which are usually nearer to home and for which the prisoner will have some limited input in the decisions. They are also different to pre-planned transfers for progression purposes e.g. to complete courses which are unavailable in the current prison.
Tariff - Minimum sentence
The minimum amount of time that indeterminate sentenced prisoners must spend in prison before they become eligible for parole.