Brits: "admit affray" What do each of these words mean?

See query. I just read (lost cite) in some English newspaper about a guy who committed some minor malfeasance, if I remember correctly, and the story said he “admitted affray.”

“Admitted” in common speech is similar to “confess” and is conceivable here. But is it that, or “pled guilty?” Or something else? In crime journalism in the US, people “confess” only on the stand or under interrogation, and only for terribly serious or dramatic crimes.

Next, “affray.” Equals US “disturbance of the peace?”

PS. “On the stand” (US) equals “in the dock” (British). Hard and fast usage all Britain? Anyone know why we lost it?

ETA: As long as you’re here, what’s the dope on lawyer, barrister, solicitor?

Is anyone referred to, or identifies himself, as a “lawyer” over there?

Solicitors and Barristers are both types of Lawyer. I always associate solicitors with the UK and lawyers with the US but this might be purely anecdotal…

Both words here are exactly as you suggest - us Brits are often keen to confess and admit things. Affray is a minor thing - often used to describe fighting or a scuffle.

Admitted is the equivalent of “plead guilty to…” in British court reporting. IANAL (also IANA Barrister) so couldn’t say if that is a difference in the language of the court itself, or just a tradition of court reporting (you definitely plead guilty in a British court, just as in a US court)

“Lawyer” is a general term in all English-speaking countries. I means exactly what it says: someone who’s occupation is that of dealing with the law. In America, the word “attorney” has essentially synonymous meaning when used alone. Some in the profession make a great show of differentiating “attorney at law”, meaning admitted to practice in a jurisdiction. But since in America pretty uniformly practicing “law” without having been licensed to do so is against the law, the practicality is that there’s almost no true distinction any more between the words.

In England, where the terms originate, “attorney” is someone appointed to act on behalf of someone else. In that case, “attorney at law” means someone who is an attorney for someone in the law courts. You can find each of the terms defined in great detail in Black’s Law Dictionary (just don’t bother with the online version!). The practice in England of differentiating flavors of lawyer and attorney (such as barrister and solicitor) is not followed in the US, though there ARE remnants: for example, District Attorney, Attorney General, etc.

ETA: America still talks about giving your “power of attorney” to someone to act on your behalf in certain matters.

Huh. And of course in law, as opposed to journalism or common speech, a “confession” is a discrete thing, even for non-terribly dramatic actions–I think we had a thread on some procedural document that had that word in the title.

ETA: to post above previous.

From my limited understanding, in England a “solicitor” is a lawyer who doesn’t ordinarily practice in a courtroom. They’ll do “office work”, contracts and wills and negotiations and other such things, but don’t appear in front of a judge. Courtroom work is done by a “barrister”, who advocates for a party in front of a judge.

Affray is more a threat of breach of the peace, though it may involve the actual breach. Some years ago I was on a jury hearing an affray and we were given a printed out definition to ponder before the trial got under way. The bit that amused me was “conduct is such as would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his personal safety.” wikipedia covers it reasonably well.

Affray is usually dealt with at the level of magistrates court, the lower level in England and Wales, which deals with about 90% of what comes before the courts. If the affray came before a court the “admission” will have been a guilty plea and possibly an admission to the police beforehand to save them having to collect evidence and build a case. Some come before a Crown Court if they’re more serious or the defendant thinks they stand a good chance with a jury. You’d only do that if you were pleading not guilty.

There is another way that less serious offences are sometimes dealt with. If a person admits guilt they may be offered a police caution. While not the same as a conviction it is nevertheless a serious matter, and only happens when guilt is admitted. This would, I suppose constitute an admission.

Whether an affray would be dealt with by way of a caution, I don’t know. But these are two ways that admitting affray might happen in the English legal system.

The difference between a barrister and a solicitor has traditionally been that of advocacy. A barrister is a lawyer who is permitted to stand up for you in court. The regulations have been relaxed in recent years and solicitors are now allowed to do advocacy work in the lower courts. Solicitors do a lot of legal work like wills, conveyancing and drawing up contracts that barristers for the most part don’t. If those wills, conveyances and contracts come to court you’ll be needing a barrister but a solicitor will do most of the legwork preparing the case.

In the case of our affray, if you’re offered a caution, it’ll most likely be a solicitor who advises you whether or not to accept it. If it gets as far as a magistrates court a solicitor may represent you. If it goes to crown court you’re going to be instructing a barrister but again, a solicitor will be doing the legwork. I’m not a lawyer, so don’t take this as gospel.

(1) A person is guilty of affray if he uses or threatens unlawful violence towards another and his conduct is such as would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his personal safety.

Slightly more serious than a breach of the peace.

In American terms a barrister is a trial lawyer, who is allowed to perform in the highest courts. Solicitors can only work in some of the lower courts and also dominate the more workaday forms of law, like writing wills, conveyancing and so forth. If you are accused of murder and go to trial then you will have both, the solicitor will represent you from your arrest onwards, and will recruit a barrister for the trial itself. As a result of recent reforms some solicitors can also work in the high courts, but it is generally not done.

The dock is where the defendant sits, I believe the stand is where the witnesses sit, yes?

I would tend to assume the admission was made with a sigh of relief that the charge wasn’t higher up the scale of damage (and potential punishment).

To the best of my recollection, witnesses… stand.

I’m a barrister and a solicitor. The profession is merged in Canada. But we refer to “barristers” as the sub-set of lawyers who do a lot of court work, and "“solicitors” as those who rarely step into a courtroom.

“Attorney” here can mean a lawyer, but it can also mean the person who has been given a power of attorney to act on another’s behalf. The distinction “attorney at law” thus has some meaning.

 I've always seen "attorney at law" used to differentiate from "attorney in fact" , meaning one who has been authorized to  act on behalf of another through a power of attorney.

Attorney in Fact is still a valid term in the U.S. We’ve just accepted that “attorney” by itself is shorthand for “attorney at law”.

OP here. On iPhone, so xrefs and cites and fillips to good stuff here (thanks!) to follow later.

Britlawpeak: Beak and mulct.

(And on the side, village titled classes being “Justice of the Peace”–by what authority?)

Re dock, stand, etc: on the tip of my tongue is something from Wodehouse about Bertie Wooster questioning the probity of The Law after being nicked (is that right? “arrested”? but I thought that means “stolen”) for stealing a policeman’s hat: “I was mulcted for five of the best and received an overly harsh warning from the beak.”

Beak? (I know Judge ior Justice if the Peace, another arm of the about whom in the US or Britain I know nothing). But I’d like to know The etymology.

Mulct? He uses it every so often, and of course in satire of high language or eloquence (eg when released from jail Bertie has the gyres struck from his wrist). But I have no idea what it means except for a Wooster substitute for “fine.”

“Justice of the Peace” is one of the oldest judicial officers in the English system, and by inheritance, many Commonwealth countries.

The office was created by three statutes passed during the reign of Edward III, in the 14th century. I believe they continue to be appointed by the Crown in England.

They are in Canada, by the provincial Lt Govs on behalf of the Crown. The office of JP in my province is based on those three English statutes, which continue in force here.

It’s from the Latin mulcta (or multa), a fine. Doesn’t really crop up anywhere much in English, although it does in other languages. Bertie, perhaps, had the benefit of a classical education.

“Barrister” means someone called to the “bar”. The “bar” was the dividing barrier between the officers of the court (the judge and the attorneys) and the hoi polloi (the common folk). If you were a barrister, you got to be beyond the bar.

In England, the distinction was in olden days a very important one. In America, the distinction is much less important, since all manner of peeps get to go past the “bar”, including witnesses, parties to the case, etc. But the “bar” is still there (it’s that railing that most American courtrooms still have separating the area where the public can sit and watch from the tables where the attorneys and their clients sit). And in America, you are still “admitted to the bar” when you have passed your “bar exam” and otherwise managed to qualify for a license to practice. So a lot of the old language still applies.

That “officer of the court” thing still has meaning in America as well. In California, where I practiced, an attorney could issue a subpoena to compel attendance at a deposition or trial, without getting court approval. This is because the attorney is an officer of the court; that is, he/she is a person who is an integral part of the legal mechanism of the state. I remember being quite floored when I realized that “I HAVE THE POWER!!”, somewhat like He-Man. Subpoena, of course, is from the Latin “sub poena”, meaning “under penalty”, a type of writ that the crown used to issue in England compelling attendance at the court. Lots of that old stuff still litters the practice in America, though we are trying slowly to modernize. For example, most states no longer issue writs of “mandamus”, but rather writs of mandate. Still, I’m glad I took Latin in high school! :smiley:

THE hoi polloi?! :eek:

Should have done Greek too ;):smiley:

In the US, “on the (witness) stand” means testifying as a witness. Generally in an elevated location next to the Judge, facing the attorneys and easily visible by the Jury. The witness is actually seated in a chair while ‘on the stand’, only actually standing at first while they are sworn (or affirmed). If the defendant chooses to testify in his own defense, he will move from his seat next to his defense attorney to the witness stand.

In Britain, does the defendant, when called to testify, actually testify while confined ‘in the dock’?
If so, that seems rather prejudicial to the defendant, I would think.