How can I appeal against a criminal conviction?

Grounds for appeal

Following a criminal conviction and sentence in a Magistrates or Crown Court, the solicitor and the barrister working the case will provide advice to the individual convicted and sentenced as to whether they feel that there is grounds for a successful appeal which can be put forward to the appellate courts.

What will happen if it is felt that there are grounds for an appeal?

If it is regarded that there are grounds for an appeal and that an appeal may indeed be successful against either the conviction or the sentence or in some cases both, then the Counsel – the term which refers to the barrister representing the client – will prepare advice in writing citing the various grounds.

What will happen if it is felt that there are grounds for an appeal?

Following the Counsel informing the client that there are grounds for an appeal, the solicitor will complete the correct forms – in this case Form NG – and submit all the relevant paperwork to the convicting or sentencing court.

What happens if the solicitor informs the client that there are no grounds for appeal?

If the solicitor feels that it is unlikely that the case will be successful on appeal, i.e. that there are no grounds for appeal he will communicate this to the client usually verbally.

Following this there are two options available for the client – they can either complete and submit the form themselves or they can seek alternative legal advice.

What will the court do once they have received this information?

Once the court has received the information the court will then forward the appeal application to the requisite appeal court.

Which court will be the appeal court which receives the information?

When a case is being appealed from the Crown Court the three options for appellate court are as follows:

  • The Criminal Court of Appeal

  • The Court of Appeal (Criminal Division)

  • The High Court

Leave to Appeal

This process of application for appeal is known as an application for Leave to Appeal and will be considered initially by a single judge. This applies irrespective of whether the appeal is for the conviction or the sentence.

How quickly after sentencing should leave for appeal be applied for?

Leave for appeal should be applied for within 28 days of the sentence being handed down.

Decision of the single judge

The single judge will decide whether or not the application will have a reasonable chance of succeeding and is there to stop appeals that have little grounds of succeeding making their way to court and wasting valuable time.

Will all applications go through this process?

All applications for appeal against criminal convictions or sentencing are required to go through this process.

Will the judge provide his reasons?

The judge will always provide his reasons for either letting the appeal go through to the court or for rejecting it in writing.

What will happen if an application for Leave to Appeal is granted?

If an initial application for Leave to Appeal is granted by the single judge then the application will move on to the full court whereby the application for appeal will be heard in full. During this appeal process witnesses will be able to give evidence and the arguments in favour of the appeal can be granted or refused by the court.

Appeal against conviction

In a case concerning an appeal against a criminal conviction the court can do one of the following four things:

  1. Decide to dismiss the appeal

  2. Allow the appeal and direct that the appellant be acquitted

  3. Allow the appeal and substitute the conviction for a lesser charge which must have been open to the trial jury – the best example of this is substituting a conviction for murder for that of manslaughter

  4. Allow the appeal and direct that there is a retrial

Appeal against sentence

In a case concerning an appeal against a criminal conviction the court can do one of the following two things:

  1. Dismiss the appeal against sentence

  2. Allow the appeal and substitute a different sentence to replace the one imposed by the Crown Court

Can an individual appeal a decision made by the Court of Appeal?

Currently there is a limited right following an appeal against a conviction or a sentence in the Court of Appeal to enable further appeals to be taken to the House of Lords. This is a limited right, however, and will only apply to appeals that are considered to have general public importance.