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  • Tess McCarthy

Appealing Against Conviction and Sentence from the Magistrates' Court

Ways to Appeal

There are various ways to appeal against a decision or outcome in the Magistrates’ Court. Most commonly, appeals in the Magistrates’ Court will be:

  • Appealing against sentence and/or conviction to the Crown Court;

  • Re-opening a case in the Magistrates’ Court; and

  • Appealing by way of Case Stated to the High Court.

There are other mechanisms in place, for example when a Judge makes an accidental slip or omission (‘the Slip Rule’), or Judicial Review when there are grounds to suggest a Judge has demonstrated illegality, irrationality, or procedural impropriety in their decision-making. These are very much legal exercises that are few and far between, and so we have concentrated on the three main routes below.

Common Reasons to Appeal Against Conviction or Sentence

Some reasons you might wish to appeal against your conviction or sentence are, non-exhaustively:

  • You weren’t able to attend the hearing for reasons outside of your control;

  • There was a provable legal error during the trial meaning your conviction was unsafe;

  • The magistrates or Judge made an error in law when sentencing you;

  • Your sentence is manifestly excessive; or

  • The evidence produced and relied on during your trial was clearly unreliable.

Appealing Against Sentence and/or Conviction to the Crown Court

You have 21 days from the date of your sentence to lodge your appeal, regardless of whether you wish to appeal sentence or conviction.

If you pleaded not guilty before trial and sentence, you can appeal against conviction, sentence, or both. If you pleaded guilty, however, you can only appeal against sentence. This is because you have admitted to the offence so essentially accept that conviction is correct.

The appropriate form must be completed with details about the case and why you are appealing against the case in the first instance. This appeal will take place as a complete rehearing by a Judge and two magistrates sitting in the Crown Court who have not previously heard the case, and you may make use of new evidence and argument.

If you are successful in your appeal against conviction, you will effectively have the original verdict and sentence replaced by a ‘not guilty’ verdict. If you are successful in your appeal against sentence, the Court may reduce or change it. It is important to keep in mind that if you are unsuccessful in your appeal, you may be ordered to pay Court costs and your sentence may increase.

The Crown Court can only act within the limits of the Magistrates’ Court sentencing powers, which are lesser than those in the Crown Court. That is not to say they cannot make your sentence longer, provided it remains within the limits. For example, a Magistrates’ Court can only sentence you to a maximum of six months for a single count of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, but the Crown Court maximum is five years. On appeal from the Magistrates’ Court, the Crown Court are limited to the Magistrates’ maximum of six months.

The form to complete for this option can be found here.

Re-opening a Case in the Magistrates' Court

There is no time limit on an application to re-open a case in the Magistrates’ Court, but it is always advisable to discuss this with your Solicitor and ensure you have applied as soon as practicable.

This option is essentially a re-hearing that is available when there are circumstances that, had they been considered at your trial or sentence hearing, might have had a bearing on the outcome. This may be in the form of a provable legal error, or your trial or sentence having gone ahead in your absence for reasons outside of your control.

For example, if you were not present for your trial or sentence hearing because you were rushed to hospital but no one was aware of that fact and the hearing went ahead in your absence, you may well have a good argument to have the matter re-opened.

You will need to provide reasons that it would be in the interests of justice for your case to be re-opened, or that it would be unjust not to. It cannot simply be that you disagreed with the result.

Appealing by way of Case Stated to the High Court

The time limit for asking the justices to state a case is within 21 days from the date of the decision being appealed.

This option is less common and fairly complicated. It is often used as a last resort where, if you appeal by way of Case Stated and are unsuccessful, you’re unlikely to be able to appeal to the Crown Court. However, if you appeal to the Crown Court first, appealing by way of Case Stated may still be open to you.

These deal with matters of law where, for example, the Magistrates or District Judge were wrong in their application of the law, or that they have acted in excess of their jurisdiction. It is advisable to seek legal advice as to whether this might apply in your particular circumstances.

The form to complete for this option can be found here.

All links to forms are correct at the date of publication of this article and so you are advised to consult the website for the latest version.

Legal disclaimer: Articles are intended as an introduction to the topic and do not constitute legal advice. The information contained herein is accurate at the date of publication but please note that the law is ever changing and evolving. If you require advice in relation to any matter raised in this article please contact a member of the team.


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