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Damages A sum of money awarded by a court as compensation for a wrong or injury.

De facto According to the fact; in point of fact.

De fideli administratione Of faithful administration. This phrase is used to describe an oath taken, for example, by an interpreter for a witness.

De jure According to law.

De novo Of new.

De plano Immediately, summarily, without attention to forms. A decree de plano is one in which the court grants a decree or order in the terms sought.

Debate Intermediate step in procedure when legal points are considered in a civil action before the facts are determined, and which can result in the conclusion of a case or a part of it without evidence being led. The word is sometimes used for a hearing on a preliminary legal issue in criminal proceedings.

Debtor A person obliged to pay some monetary or other obligation to another (the creditor).

Decern A formal word meaning to give (final) decree or judgment and authorises an extract of the decree or order.

Declarator An order declaring that some right exists or does not exist which has legal consequence.

Decree The common term for a final judgment. (The word is accented on the first syllable).

Decree by default A final order granted to a party against another party who has failed to appear, to lodge a document or do something required by the court or rules of court.

Decree in absence A final order granted to the pursuer in a civil action where the defender has not lodged a notice of intention to defend or has not lodged defences.

Defences The statement by way of defence lodged by a defender in a civil action, being the party against whom a civil action is raised.

Defender A person against whom a civil action is raised. The word "defendant" is not used in Scotland.

Deferred sentence

This is when the final decision about a sentence is postponed to another date for the offender to be of good behaviour during that time. The sentence is usually postponed for between 3 to 12 months. Other conditions can sometimes be added, such as attending counselling or repaying money. The sentence will depend on how the offender has behaved. If the offender has stayed out of trouble, then the sentence will normally be lower than if they get into trouble.

Delict A civil wrong.

Desert pro loco et tempore To stop the particular indictment or summary complaint proceeding further without the facts being determined.

Desert simpliciter To bring prosecution for a crime or offence on indictment or summary complaint to an end without the facts being determined.


Detention is when youths aged 16 to 21 are sent to a young offenders’ institution, rather than prison.

Determinate sentence

This is a custodial sentence where the judge sets the fixed length of time the offender will spend in prison, or in a young offenders' institution, before being released into the community. However, the offender will not necessarily spend the whole of this time in prison (see Automatic Early Release). 


The diet is the date fixed by the court for hearing a particular stage of a case. For instance a ‘pleading diet’ is when accused are asked to state whether they plead guilty or not guilty.

Diligence Procedure for enforcing an order of the court, or for recovering documents from an opponent or other person; or for obtaining the evidence of witnesses before a commissioner. It also applies to an order to preserve money or property of a party until civil proceedings have been concluded.

Discharge Release from an order or obligation.


A disposal is the sentence or outcome of a criminal case.

Domicile Where a person lives or a company or body has its registered address or seat.

Drug Treatment and Testing Orders (DTTO)

These orders are designed to assist offenders to reduce their drug use and related offending.

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