Can I Appeal Against Conviction in a Criminal Case?
APPEALS FROM THE MAGISTRATES' COURT
Anybody who has been convicted after trial of an offence in the Magistrates' Court has the right of appeal to the Crown Court. Doing this results in a re-run of the trial at the Crown Court with the case now being heard by a Crown Court Judge and two magistrates. A person must inform the Court that they want to appeal against conviction within 21 days.
Similarly, anybody who has been sentenced at the Magistrates' Court has the right to appeal that sentence to the Crown Court. Again, this results in a re-run of the sentencing hearing and a defendant will be sentenced anew by a Crown Court judge assisted by two magistrates.
A more rare type of appeal against conviction is called an"appeal by way of case stated". This means that a set of facts are agreed but that a legal or technical error was made by the Court when applying the law. The appeal goes to the High Court. Such an appeal against conviction must again be lodged within 21 days.
APPEALS FROM THE CROWN COURT
Reasons for an Appeal Against Conviction
We provide here examples of reasons which may amount to an appeal against conviction, and a number of circumstances which will not.
1) You may have Grounds to Appeal if the any of following examples apply:
Your legal team did not follow your instructions
New and strong evidence has since come to light that was not previously available
Your defence case was not prepared properly
You believe that the prosecution's case against you was wrong according to the law
You have strong reasons for believing that your legal team did not act in your best interests
The jury was allowed to hear evidence which it should not have been allowed to hear.
The Judge prevented your team from presenting evidence to the jury which the jury should have been allowed to hear
The Judge unfairly or incorrectly summed up the case
2) You cannot appeal if the any of following examples apply:
You didn't agree with the Jury's decision
You didn't like the Judge's Comments or Summing Up
You were nervous and you would like to give your evidence again
You didn't like the way your defence case was presented
The Court of Appeal, when considering an appeal, will first consider whether an error took place which affected the trial. If the Court considers that an error has taken place it will go on to consider the evidence in the case as a whole and decide whether it considers the conviction to be unsafe.
Can I Appeal My Sentence?
When sentencing, a Judge is generally guided by the sentencing guidelines set out in law, along with precedents (previous sentences handed out in similar cases). However, he/she will also be influenced by a number of other factors which are specific to each individual case. These include:
Whether or not you pleaded guilty or you were convicted after a trial;
If you pleaded guilty, at what stage you entered that plea. (At an early stage such as a Plea and Directions Hearing or at a later stage such as the first day of your trial);
The content of a Pre-Sentence Report by the Probation Service;
Your antecedents (previous convictions or cautions), especially if the convictions were for the same type of offence.
The Court of Appeal will look at whether a Crown Court Judge correctly applied sentencing principles. The Court will then go on to decide whether the sentence is what could be described as "manifestly excessive".
Appeals against conviction and sentence from the Crown Court must be filed within 28 days of the decision which is being appealed. It is possible, however, to ask the Court of Appeal for permission to appeal outside of this deadline where there are good reasons for the delay.
In circumstances where a Defendant has sought a second opinion from a new legal team, it is almost inevitable that the process of new lawyers reading the case will take longer than 28 days. If the Court thinks there are good arguments, and it can be shown that a Defendant has acted in good time, then the Court will often grant permission to appeal.
A new lawyer must consider the evidence and, in many cases, consider transcripts of what took place in Court. A lawyer must understand all of the circumstances of a case before they can advise on an appeal against conviction or sentence.
Understanding what to expect is an important step in disarming any anxiety an attendee may have. Here, we provide a guide to the Magistrates' Court. In addition to reading the information below, we strongly advise seeking early free legal advice.
Lawyers who might deal with cases where a client could go to prison for more than a decade might lose sight of the fact that even two years in prison is a long time to most people.
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