, under English law
properly the prisoner
at the bar
, is one accused of a crime
. The term is used, generally, of one guilty
of an offence
. In origin
the word is a combination of two Anglo-French
legal words, culpable: guilty, and prit or prest: Old French
: ready. On the prisoner at the bar pleading not
guilty, the clerk of the crown answered culpable, and states that he was ready (prest) to join issue. The words "cul. prist" were then entered on the roll, showing that issue had been joined. When French law
terms were discontinued, the words were taken as forming one word addressed to the prisoner.
The formula "Culprit, how will you be tried?" in answer to a plea of "not guilty," is first found in the trial for murder of the 7th Earl of Pembroke in 1678.
The term "culpret" refers to a female culprit, a female being that has "culped". for mine
Under modern criminal law, the preferred term is defendant.