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Book Review: Australian Criminal Law Dictionary




Title: Australian Criminal Law Dictionary

Editor: Judge R. N. Howie QC

Published by: Butterworths, North Ryde (1997)

ISBN: 0-409-31419-6

pp: 231

This handy-sized volume provides a useful starting point for definitions and references connected with a comprehensive range of terms and concepts (there are over 2300 entries) that feature in the field of Criminal Law. This makes it a useful book to have handy when studying or researching topics within this field. The definitions that are provided are concise and the range of entries is sufficiently wide to include significant modern concepts and usages (e.g. `Cybercrime’). The dictionary is prefaced with a key to its layout and use to assist readers in maximising its benefit. The layout is simple and clear, although the typescriptnis on the small side. There are plenty of useful cross-references, not only to related terms within the dictionary but also to relevant Australian legislative provisions and cases. This makes this text a useful tool for anyone wishing to undertake comparative exercises.

However, there are certain aspects of this text that undermine its usefulness, particularly in relation to its value within the South Pacific outside Australia. The main area of difficulty is with the language that is used in the text. Not only is some of the language highly legalistic in nature but there is a tendency to use more Latin terms than is necessary, certainly from the point of view of the average criminal law student. These problems mean that this text is not particularly user-friendly for readers who do not have English as their first language; neither is it completely suitable for use by someone who has had no exposure to the language of the law prior to using this dictionary. In addition, although this is marketed as a criminal law dictionary there are some entries and explanations included in the text that are unrelated to criminal law concepts.

A further useful feature of this dictionary is its set of appendices containing contact details for High Court of Australia Registries; Federal Court of Australia Registries; State Supreme Court Registries; District and County Court Registries; Local Court/Magistrates’ Court/Court of Petty Sessions Registries; Offices of the State Directors of Public Prosecutions and the National Crime Authority.

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