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Defendants (criminal proceedings)

England and Wales

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England and Wales

Can I appeal?

If you were convicted or sentenced in a Magistrates’ Court you can appeal to the local Crown Court. You can also appeal to the Administrative Court in London if you believe the magistrates misinterpreted the law.

If you were convicted or sentenced in the Crown Court, you can only appeal if granted leave to do so because, e.g., the judge made a mistake. You can then appeal to the Court of Appeal in London.

How do I appeal?

If the trial was in the Magistrates’ Court you must appeal within 21 days. If the trial was in the Crown Court you must appeal within 28 days. Your lawyer will advise you whether and how to appeal.

What are the grounds of appeal?

You have a right to appeal any decision of a Magistrates’ Court but must complete and return a form available from the court.

Appeals from the Crown Court require a more formal process. When you make your appeal you must give a detailed statement of your reasons. Grounds of appeal include that:

  • The judge gave wrong instructions to the jury;
  • There was a mistake or irregularity in the trial procedure;
  • Evidence was wrongly allowed, or disallowed.

Grounds for appeals against sentence include that:

  • The judge made an error of law;
  • That the length of sentence was excessive.

What happens at the appeal hearing?

An appeal from a Magistrates’ Court will normally be heard by a judge sitting with two magistrates (different from those who originally tried the case). It is a fresh hearing and new or different evidence and facts may be called. If the appeal is just against the sentence, the Crown Court may reduce the sentence, confirm it or increase it.

If you challenge the magistrates’ interpretation of the law in the Administrative Court, and that court decides the magistrates were wrong, the verdict will be overturned. In some circumstances, it may be returned to the Magistrates’ Court for another hearing.

An appeal against a conviction in the Crown Court will be heard in the Court of Appeal. Your lawyer and the prosecutor will present arguments about the merits of your appeal. The court can call for more evidence. Generally, you cannot call evidence that was available at the time of the trial which you decided not to use at trial. Appeals will be in public.

If you are not in prison you have a right to attend the appeal. If you are in prison, you have a right to attend unless the appeal is on matters of law alone. The court may allow you to participate via video-link.

What happens if I am in prison when I appeal?

Once you have applied for an appeal you can apply for release from prison until the appeal hearing has taken place, although release in these circumstances is rare. If bail is granted, it may be subject to conditions.

How long will it be before the appeal is heard?

Appeals from the Magistrates’ Court against sentence are usually heard quickly if you are in custody but otherwise within 3 to 6 months. You need permission from a senior judge to appeal a Crown Court decision to the Court of Appeal. On average, appeals against conviction are heard within 8 months and appeals against sentence within 5 months. You can abandon an appeal at any time by writing to the Criminal Appeal Office.

What happens if the appeal against conviction is successful/unsuccessful?

If the appeal is successful, the court will quash your conviction and it is removed from the official record. In some circumstances the court may set aside the conviction but allow the prosecutor to start a new trial against you.

If the appeal is unsuccessful, normally no change is made to the trial verdict, but in some cases the appeal court may substitute a conviction for a less serious crime (this cannot normally be done on appeal from the Magistrates’ Court).

What happens if the appeal against sentence is successful/unsuccessful?

If the appeal is successful, the court will impose a new sentence. If the appeal is unsuccessful, the court may confirm the original sentence, and may also increase it.

Is there a right to appeal again to a higher/different court?

If you appealed from the Magistrates’ Court and the appeal was rejected by the Crown Court you can apply to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) asking them to refer your case back to the Court of Appeal. This is rare.

If you appealed to the Administrative Court, or Court of Appeal you may have a right to a further appeal to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom if your appeal raises a point of general legal importance.

If my appeal is successful will I get any compensation?

You can apply for compensation within 2 years by completing this form. The Government decides. Your lawyer will be able to explain how the scheme works.

Is further appeal possible if the first appeal fails?

Exceptionally, you may be able to make a further appeal if a new ground of appeal arises. If you want to produce new evidence you must explain why it was not heard at the trial.

Are there any other ways for me to make an appeal?

You can apply to the CCRC asking them to investigate whether there was a miscarriage of justice. The Commission can refer your case to the relevant appeal court. If they do, your case is heard as a normal appeal.

I am from another Member State. Can I be sent back there after the trial?

If you are convicted and sentenced to prison you may be liable to be deported when released. If you are not a British Citizen and the sentence is 12 months or more or if you are sentenced for certain serious offences, the Government will normally order deportation at the end of your time in prison. In any other case where prison is a possible sentence, if you are over 17, the judge may recommend that you should be deported after the sentence is served. This is possible whether you are sent to prison or not. The Government will decide based on the judge’s recommendation. The judge’s recommendation is part of the sentence and can be appealed, as described above. The Government may seek to deport you, even without a court recommendation if “conducive to the public good”. If you are a national of another Member State you can be deported only on the grounds of public policy, public security or public health. Being convicted of a crime does not by itself justify deportation. You have the right to appeal to a special tribunal against a decision to deport you.

If I am convicted, can I be tried again for the same crime?

If you have been convicted or acquitted of a crime after a trial in any part of the United Kingdom, you cannot be tried again in England for the same crime except in special circumstances. The same rule applies where a verdict has been given after a trial if the trial was in another Member State.

Information about convictions

Convictions and cautions are recorded on the Police National Computer (PNC) until your 100th birthday. If you believe that information about your record is inaccurate, you can challenge it. Your lawyer will tell you how to do this. You may also ask the police Chief Constable in the area where the offence occurred to amend or delete the information. Cautions, reprimands and final warnings are treated as convictions. Even after you have completed any sentence, you have to reveal the conviction or caution when required (e.g. on job applications) until the conviction becomes spent. How long that takes depends on the type of crime and the sentence. If you were issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice or Penalty Notice for Disorder, this is not part of your criminal record.

Related links

Court of Appeal


A Guide to Commencing Proceedings in the Court of Appeal

Supreme Court of the United Kingdom

Criminal Cases Review Commission

Criminal Records Bureau Rehabilitation of offenders

Criminal Appeal Act 1968 (as amended)

Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974(as amended)

Bail Act 1976 (as amended)

Magistrates Court Act 1980 (as amended)

Senior Courts Act 1981 (as amended)

Criminal Appeal Act 1995 (as amended)

Police Act 1997 (as amended)

Human Rights Act 1998 (as amended)

Police and Justice Act 2006 (as amended)

European Convention on Human Rights

Last update: 01/12/2016

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