Magistrates’ courts appeal routes
Appeal to the Crown Court
The normal route of appeal is to the Crown court and this is only available to the defence. The defendant has an automatic right to appeal against sentence or conviction (‘point of fact’). At the Crown court the case is completely re-heard by a judge and two magistrates. They can confirm conviction, decide it is not proved or vary the decision. In relation to sentence, they can confirm or increase/decrease it.
Appeal to the Queen’s Bench Divisional Court (case stated appeals) These are appeals on a point of law which go the Queen’s Bench Divisional Court. Both the prosecution and the defence can use this appeal route. The magistrates are asked to state the case by setting out their findings of fact and their decision. The appeal is then argued on the basis of what the law is on those facts; no witnesses are called. The appeal is heard by a panel of two or three High Court judges. This route is only used by the defendant against a conviction, or by the prosecution against an acquittal, when they wish the law to be clarified – any appeal by the prosecution has no impact on the defendant’s acquittal. The appeal is because they claim the magistrates came to the wrong decision because they made a mistake about the law. The Divisional Court may confirm, vary or reverse the decision .
From the decision of the Divisional Court there is a possibility of a further appeal to the House of Lords if a point of law of general public importance is involved.
The Crown Court
The Crown courts were established by the Courts Act 1971. There are currently 90 different centres throughout England and Wales. They deal with a wide range of serious criminal cases.
Trials are heard by a judge and a jury consisting of twelve people. They are three types of judge that may hear Crown court cases and the category of judge is determined by the class of offence. There are four classes of offence:-
0 CLASS 1
These are the most serious offences and are tried by a High Court judge such as murder and some terrorism offences;
1 CLASS 2
These offences are also tried by a High Court judge and include the main indictable offences, such as manslaughter, illegal abortion, rape, etc 2 CLASS 3
These offences may be heard by a High Court or circuit judge or a recorder and comprise all indictable offences other than those in classes 1 and 2 3 CLASS 4
These are tried by any of the three judges although normally a circuit judge or recorder, and include offences triable either way.
The Crown court has jurisdiction over indictable criminal cases or triable either way offences referred up from the Magistrates’ court. It deals with the most serious criminal offences. If the defendant pleads guilty, the Crown court’s role is to pass sentence. If the defendant pleads not guilty, a trial will take place. A jury will determine guilt or innocence based on the evidence presented. It is usual for the defendant to be represented, usually by a barrister, although solicitors who have a certificate of advocacy can also appear at the Crown court.
As stated earlier, the Crown court hears appeals from the Magistrates’ court. The defendant may appeal as of right on conviction or sentence. A judge and two magistrates will sit to determine the appeal.
Appeals from the Crown Court
There are two possible types of appeal from the Crown court. The rules on appeals are set out in the Criminal Appeal Act 1995.
Court of Appeal (Criminal Division)
The defendant has the possibility of appealing against conviction and/or sentence to the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) within 14 days of the trial. . The Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) is headed by the Lord Chief Justice who normally sits with two High Court judges to hear appeals.
The defendant must obtain leave to appeal on conviction, but has...
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