Civil Court Appeals

Introduction to appealing the Decision of a Civil Court

Frequently clients are anxious to know whether they can appeal in the event of an unsuccessful claim or defence long before their case is even heard. For others, it is the most pressing question after the judgment is pronounced. Some appeals can be brought as of right. Most other decisions can be appealed with permission. However, it is comparatively rare for decisions, particularly after trial, to be appealed. In recent times a total of about 1,600 appeals are completed each year in the Court of Appeal, of which just 25% are successful. Each year there are about 50 civil appeals to the House of Lords, of which about a third achieve some success. However in 2009, the judicial role of the House of Lords as the highest appeal court in the UK ended and from 1st October 2009, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom assumed jurisdiction on points of law for all civil law cases in the UK and all criminal cases in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Civil appeals frame

  • County Court District judges may be appealed to County Court Circuit judges;
  • High Court Masters and District Judges may be appealed to Supreme Court Judge;
  • County Court Circuit Judges may be appealed to a Supreme Court Judge;
  • Supreme Court Judges may be appealed to the Court of Appeal; and
  • Court of Appeal decisions may be appealed to the Supreme Court.

Time for bringing an appeal

An appeal is brought by filing the appeal notice. This must be done within 21 days after the date of the decision of the lower court, unless the lower court has directed some other period for bringing the appeal. Once an appeal notice has been filed it must be served on each respondent as soon as practicable, and in any event within seven days after being filed. 

Permission to appeal

With three minor exceptions, permission is required for appeals. The exceptions where decisions may be appealed without permission are those from:

  • Committal orders;
  • A refusal to grant habeas corpus; and
  • Secure accommodation orders under the Children Act 1989, s 25 

The basic test for granting permission is whether the appeal has a real prospect of success.

Service of appellant’s notice on the respondent

Unless the appeal court orders otherwise, an appellant’s notice must be served on each respondent as soon as practicable, and in any event not later than seven days, after it is filed. A copy of the appellant’s skeleton argument should be served at the same time unless this is impracticable, in which case it should be served within 14days of filing the notice.

Respondent’s notice

Generally no response is required from the respondent until permission is granted. Respondents are served with certain documents before permission to appeal is granted, but the purpose of this is to ensure the respondent is informed of any landmarks in the appeal process.

Nature of appeal hearings

For almost all appeals, the appeals court will allow an appeal only where the decision of the lower court was:

  • Wrong; or
  • Unjust because of a serious procedural or other irregularity in the proceedings in the lower court.

Stay of execution

Initiating an appeal does not have the automatic effect of staying execution on the judgment or order under appeal.

Fresh evidence

The court of appeal may receive fresh evidence only if it is satisfied that such evidence:

  • Could not have been obtained with reasonable diligence for use at the hearing;
  • Would probably have an important influence on the result of the case; and
  • Is apparently credible.