How can I appeal against a criminal conviction?

If you have been convicted of a criminal offence and sentenced in the magistrates’ court or Crown Court, the lawyers working on your case will advise you whether there is grounds for a successful appeal to the appellate courts. If you pleaded not guilty, you can appeal against your conviction or your sentence. If you pleaded guilty, you can only appeal against your sentence.

Appeals from the magistrates’ court

You have 21 days from the date of your sentencing to launch your appeal. If you miss the deadline you’ll need to ask the Crown Court for permission.

If you went to your trial and were sentenced by magistrates, you need to fill out a magistrates’ court appeal notice form and send it to the court where your case was heard.

If you were convicted in the magistrates’ court but sentenced in the Crown Court a different process is followed (see below).

If you didn’t go to your trial, you need to contact the magistrates’ court that convicted you to find out if you can appeal.

Your appeal will be heard by a judge and magistrates at the Crown Court. They will listen to the prosecution case against you and your defence, then give you a decision within 80 days.

If you win your appeal against conviction the sentence you received will be lifted and you might be eligible for compensation. If you win your appeal against sentence, your sentence will be reduced. If you lose your appeal your conviction will stand and your sentence might be changed. You’ll also probably have to pay court costs.

Appeals from the Crown Court

You must get permission from a judge to appeal to the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division). You need to fill out Form NG outlining the grounds for appeal against sentence or conviction and send it to the Crown Court where you were convicted or sentenced.

The application must be submitted within 28 days of the date you were convicted (even if you were sentenced at a later date) if you’re appealing against your conviction; or the date you were sentenced if you’re appealing against your sentence.

If the judge refuses your application, they will notify you giving their reasons. You can then apply again to a ‘full court’ of two or three judges.

If you appeal against your conviction, your lawyer will present your case to the Court of Appeal and the prosecution will present the case against you. If you’re appealing against sentence, the judges might come to a decision without hearing the prosecution’s side.

If you win your appeal your conviction will be quashed and/or your sentence reduced. If you lose, your original sentence/conviction will remain in place but you might have to restart your sentence again from the beginning and you’ll probably face extra costs for bringing the appeal.

Appealing a Court of Appeal decision

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 Supreme Court. This is a limited right, however, and will only apply to appeals that are considered to have general public importance.

Article written by...
Nicola Laver LLB
Nicola Laver LLB

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A non-practising solicitor, Nicola is also a fully qualified journalist. For the past 20 years, she has worked as a legal journalist, editor and author.