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Panel (Sometimes "Pannel") The formal name for an accused person. The word "defendant" is not used.

Pari passu To share and share alike or ranking equally, e.g. in the case of claims or security rights.

Parole Where an offender is serving a sentence of imprisonment or detention of four years or more (other than a life sentence), he or she is eligible to be released after one half of the sentence on parole. He or she may be subject to conditions for release and may be recalled to prison.

Parole Board

The Parole Board for Scotland is an independent body which decides on when eligible offenders are ready to leave prison to serve the remainder of their sentence in the community under the supervision of a social worker.

Parole evidence Oral evidence of witnesses, as distinct from with documentary evidence including affidavit evidence. See also Affidavit.

Part-time sheriff A lawyer appointed to act as a sheriff on a part-time basis.

Per incuriam Through negligence, mistake or error.

Per stirpes By descent, i.e. through a parent and not in one's own right. (Where per stirpes the share which would have fallen to the predeceasing parent if alive is divided equally among the children).

Perjury The crime committed by a witness in court proceedings by lying on oath or on an affirmation. See Affirmation and Oath.

Petition (1) A writ by which civil court proceedings are initiated in which some administrative order of the court is required for something to be done which requires judicial authority. It is distinct from a summons in an action which is to enforce a legal right against a person (the defender). In the Court of Session civil causes are raised at first instance as either a summons or a petition as the case may be. In the sheriff court all civil proceedings are raised in same way, whether petitions or not, that is by initial writ. See also Summons.

(2) In criminal proceedings, the Crown (the prosecutor) may begin proceedings by petition before deciding whether to prosecute on indictment or by summary complaint. Only serious cases are begun by petition.

Petition and complaint The procedure in the Court of Session where the remedy sought is a punishment for failure to obtemper a decree.

Petition Hearing

This is a hearing held in private at the earliest court stage of a serious criminal prosecution.


A pleas is the answer an accused gives to the court at the beginning of a case when they are asked if they are guilty or nor guilty of an offence.

Plea in mitigation

In court, the accused, or their lawyer, can address the judge with a plea in mitigation. This brings to the judge's attention any mitigating factors that are likely to make a sentence less severe. To learn more about examples of mitigating factors, visit the Scottish Sentencing Council website.


Pleading Diet

This is the date assigned for a criminal case to call in court where the accused is asked whether they plead guilty or not guilty.

Plea-in-law A short proposition at the end of a written case showing exactly the legal remedy sought.



The decision of a court regarded as a source of law or authority in the decision of a later case.

Precognition A formal statement of a witness taken or written by another person.

Precognose To take a precognition.

Preliminary Hearing 

This is a hearing in the High Court for more serious cases, called solemn proceedings, to decide if the case is ready to go to trial. Some legal or factual issues may also be determined at this stage.

Preliminary plea A plea-in-law that raises a legal issue that does not relate to the merits of the proceedings but if sustained could result in the proceedings or a part of them being dismissed.

Pre-proof hearing A hearing in civil action proceedings to determine whether parties are ready for the proof, whether more or fewer days for proof are required and to establish what the issues are or whether they can be reduced.

President, Lord The head of the judiciary. He or she presides over the First Division of the Inner House of the Court of Session, the supreme civil court. As Lord Justice General of Scotland he or she is the senior judge of the High Court of Justiciary.


Pre-sentence report

This report is generally prepared by a social worker to assist the judge in deciding the most appropriate sentence. It usually includes an assessment of the nature and seriousness of the offence and the impact on a victim. A judge is required to get a pre-sentence report before giving a Community Payback Order or a custodial sentence (if the offender has not received a custodial sentence before, or is under the age of 21).

Presumption of Innocence

An accused person is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty by a court. The court must decide whether the prosecutor has proven the facts they are relying upon for a guilty verdict. The accused does not require to prove their innocence.

Previous Convictions

When an offender has previously been convicted in court of committing crimes, these are called previous convictions. A person is convicted when they admit they committed a crime or are found guilty by a judge or a jury of committing the crime. Some convictions can be analogous. This means that they are the same or similar to the crime the person is being sentenced for at the time.

Privitative jurisdiction All civil proceedings of £5,000 in monetary value exclusive of interest and expenses must be brought in the Sheriff Court. The civil jurisdiction of the Sheriff Court is not restricted to such causes; its jurisdiction extends to causes of any value. Certain types of action are competent only in one or other of the Court of Session or Sheriff Court.

Probation A form of sentence in criminal proceedings requiring an offender to be supervised by a social worker for a specified period of between six months and three years.

Procedure roll In the Court of Session, where the legal issues in a civil action are to be considered before proof of the facts, the case is appointed to a debate on the Procedure Roll.

Process The court papers relating to a cause.


Procurator Fiscal

Procurators fiscal are based throughout Scotland. They are legally qualified civil servants who receive reports about crimes from the police and others and then decide what action to take in the public interest, including whether to prosecute someone. They also look into deaths that need further explanation and investigate allegations of criminal conduct against police officers.

Production An article produced and lodged as evidence in court.

Pro forma A document used as a form or style.

Pro indiviso In an undivided state, usually in relation to property held by several persons.

Pro loco et tempore Without place and time.

Pro non scripto As not written, that is something is treated as if it had not been written.

Proof In addition to its general meaning, this word has the formal sense of a hearing of a case by a judge at which evidence is led orally or by affidavit.

Proof before answer Where evidence is heard on the facts before questions of law are determined, there may be a "proof before answer".

Prorogate Continue or extend. Where further time is allowed to do something required by the court before the time limit has expired, the time limit is prorogated.


The prosecutor is a lawyer who puts the case against the accused. In Scotland, the public prosecutor is called a procurator fiscal and is a member of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service

Protective measure An order preserving money or property in civil proceedings before the case is concluded.

Public Consultation

This is a process of getting input and feedback from legal professionals, experts, interested parties and members of the public on a proposed piece of work.

Public guardian The official responsible for supervising powers and orders in relation to adults with incapacity under the Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000.

Punishment Part

If a person is given a life sentence or an order for lifelong restriction (OLR), the court must set a punishment part of the sentence. This is the minimum time the person will spend in prison before they can be considered for release into the community by the Parole Board for Scotland.

Pursuer The person suing in a civil action seeking an order against a defender.