What is an appeal?
If you do not win your case, there is usually a right to apply for the decision of the court to be reviewed by a higher court and possibly be quashed. Such a right, however, is not automatic. There must be proper grounds for making an appeal and there are strict time limits within which to do so. There must be substantial procedural or other irregularity which will give rise to appeal. The aim of an appeal is to correct a wrong decision and so avoid a miscarriage of justice.
An appeal must be allowed by a court. It is therefore necessary to prove that there was some kind of misunderstanding of the law, evidence or facts. Sometimes one of the parties obtains fresh evidence; this is not normally allowed by an appeal court, but if the party can show that this fresh evidence was relevant and credible but not possible to be obtained for the hearing at a lower court, it will be allowed.
Structure of the courts
Appeals against the decision of the magistrates’ court in criminal cases are heard by the Crown Court.
To appeal against a criminal conviction or sentence handed down by the Crown Court you need to seek permission from a judge. Appeal applications and applications for leave to appeal against decisions made by the Crown Court are dealt with by the Court of Appeal Criminal Division.
Appeals against the decision of a county court or a High Court are mostly dealt with by the Court of Appeal Civil Division. Under ss 12–16 of the Administration of Justice Act 1969, a civil case can, in certain circumstances, be appealed straight to the Supreme Court from a High Court judge or a judge in the divisional court. This procedure is known as leapfrog and is a very rare exception.
Where the court deciding whether permission to appeal should be granted (the relevant court) feels an appeal which is to be heard by the county court or the High Court would raise an important point of principle or practice or there is some other compelling reason for the Court of Appeal to hear it, the relevant court may order the appeal to be transferred to the Court of Appeal.
Appeals from the Court of Appeal are dealt with by the Supreme Court.
You must usually obtain permission from a court to be able to appeal.
An application to appeal a decision from the Crown Court must be made within 28 days of either:
- the date you were convicted if you’re appealing against your conviction;
- the date you were sentenced if you’re appealing against your sentence.
You usually have 21 days to appeal against a county court or High Court decision, although in some cases there is a seven-day time limit for appealing. Appeals from the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court must generally be made within 28 days of the date of the order or decision being appealed.
An extension to the time limits may be granted if you have a good reason for not sending your application in on time.
According to Civil Procedure Rules CPR 52.3, the two grounds for permission to appeal to be granted are:
- the appeal must have a real prospect of success; and
- there is some other compelling reason why the appeal should be granted.
You will need permission from the Court of Appeal for any appeal to that court from a decision of the county court, the family court or the High Court which was itself made on appeal. The Court of Appeal will only give permission in such cases if the appeal would:
- have a real prospect of success; and
- raise an important point of principle or practice; or
- there is some other compelling reason for the Court of Appeal to hear it.
If you’re seeking permission to appeal, you must submit an appellant’s notice (Form N161 for civil claims; Form NG for criminal appeals to the Court of Appeal; Form SC for appeals to the Supreme Court). This must contain the grounds of appeal. The court will then decide whether it will grant the permission. Copies of the notice must be given to the respondent. You’ll also need to supply other documents, such as a copy of the lower court order.
A respondent may file and serve a respondent’s notice if they are seeking permission to appeal from the appeal court or want to ask the appeal court to uphold the decision of the lower court for reasons different from or additional to those given by the lower court.
Considerations about whether to grant permission to appeal to the county court and High Court are usually made on paper without an oral hearing. However, where the appeal court, without a hearing, refuses permission to appeal, you can request the decision be reconsidered at an oral hearing.
The powers of the appeal court
The appeal court has power to:
- affirm, set aside or vary any order or judgment made or given by the lower court;
- refer any claim or issue for determination by the lower court;
- order a new trial or hearing;
- make orders for the payment of interest;
- make a costs order.
In an appeal from a claim tried with a jury the Court of Appeal may, instead of ordering a new trial:
- make an order for damages; or
- vary an award of damages made by the jury.
If the appeal court refuses permission to appeal, strikes out your notice or dismisses your appeal, and it feels that the application, the notice or the appeal is totally without merit, it must record this and consider whether it is appropriate to make a civil restraint order.
Court of Justice of the European Union
The Court of Justice of the European Union is in Luxembourg. It is a body who makes decisions and controls the acts done by member states of the EU in accordance with European regulations and directives. If violation of these occurs, the state may be sued at this court.