Author:Kent Roach
Profession:Faculty of Law and Centre of Criminology. University of Toronto

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Absolute discharge: a disposition in which no conviction is recorded. It is available if there is no minimum penalty, the offence is not punishable by life or fourteen years’ imprisonment, and the judge determines that it is in the accused’s best interests and not contrary to the public interest.

Absolute liability: an offence for which the accused is guilty once it is proven that the prohibited act, or actus reus, was committed and regardless of the existence of any fault, including negligence.

Actus reus: the prohibited act in a criminal or regulatory offence. Proof of the actus reus may also include the requirement that the prohibited act be voluntarily and consciously committed by the accused.

Aiding or abetting: intentionally assisting or encouraging a crime and, by doing so, becoming a party to the crime.

Appellate court: a court that reviews the accused’s conviction or acquittal at trial. In summary conviction matters, appeals are usually heard by superior courts, while in indictable matters, appeals are heard by the provincial courts of appeal. Courts, such as the Supreme Court of Canada, which hear subsequent appeals are also called appellate courts.

Attempt: an attempted crime occurs when the accused does something beyond mere preparation for the purpose of committing a crime. It is a separate crime of attempting the specific offence and is usually subject to less punishment than the completed crime.

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Attorney General: the elected official ultimately accountable for prosecutions. For Criminal Code offences, this is normally the Attorney General of the province, while for other federal offences it is the Attorney General of Canada.

Automatism: a state in which the accused acts in an involuntary manner. It is known as mental disorder automatism if it is caused by a mental disorder, and non-mental disorder automatism if it is caused by some other factor such as a blow to the head.

Bail: also known as judicial interim release. It refers to the release of an accused person pending trial on the grounds that he or she is likely to appear for trial, not likely to commit offences in the meantime, and release will not undermine public confidence in the administration of justice.

Causation: an issue in determining whether the accused has committed the actus reus or prohibited act by causing the prohibited consequences, usually death.

Common law: judge-made law as opposed to legislation passed by the legislature.

Conditional discharge: a disposition in which no conviction is recorded so long as the accused successfully satisfies prescribed conditions. This disposition is available only if there is no minimum penalty and the offence is not subject to life or fourteen years’ imprisonment.

Conditional sentence: a disposition in which the accused is found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment but...

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