Appealing the decisions of magistrates


There are three ways of appealing against the decision of the magistrates:

  1. appeal to the Crown Court;
  2. appeal to the High Court by way of case stated;
  3. application for judicial review.

Appeal to the Crown Court

You may appeal against your conviction and/or sentence to the Crown Court.


  • If you went to your trial, you must send a ‘magistrates’ court appeal notice form’ to the magistrates’ court where your trial took place within 21 days of sentence. The 21 days run from the date of sentence, even if the appeal is against conviction and you were convicted and sentenced on different days.
  • If you didn’t go to your trial, contact the magistrates’ court that passed the sentence or convicted you. They’ll let you know if the case can be reopened.
  • The appeal notice form must state the grounds of appeal.
  • All documents are forwarded to the Crown Court, where the listing officer will place the appeal on the list, and send notice of the time and place to you, the prosecution and the magistrates’ court.
  • You may appeal out of time by applying for leave in writing from the Crown Court.
  • You’ll get a letter within 80 days of making your appeal to let you know when and where the hearing will take place.


If you are in custody and give notice of appeal, the magistrates may grant you bail. You do not have an automatic right to bail, but it may be granted if the sentence is likely to have been served before the appeal is heard.

The hearing

At the hearing, the judge usually sits with two lay magistrates who have not been concerned with the case in the magistrates’ court. In an appeal against conviction, the hearing itself is a complete re-hearing of the whole case. The lay magistrates must accept the law from the judge, but the decision on the appeal itself is a majority decision. Thus, the lay magistrates may outvote the judge. You’ll be told whether you’ve won your appeal at the hearing. A Crown Court judge giving the decision of the court must give reasons for its decision.

Powers of the Crown Court

The Crown Court may:

  • confirm, reverse or vary any part of the decision appealed against;
  • remit the case to the magistrates with its opinion;
  • make any such order as it thinks just.

If you win your appeal against your conviction, your sentence will no longer apply and you may be able to apply for compensation. Your sentence will be reduced if you win your appeal against it.

Appeals to the High Court by way of case stated

Under the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980, s111(1):

‘…Any person who was a party to any proceeding before a magistrates’ court or is aggrieved by the conviction, order, determination or other proceeding of the court may question the proceeding on the ground that it is wrong in law or in excess of jurisdiction by applying to the justices to state case for the opinion of the High Court on the question of law or jurisdiction involved…’

This means that magistrates that heard your case can send the case to the High Court to decide how the law should apply to specified set of facts.


  • The application must be made in writing within 21 days of the decision being challenged, and should state the point of law upon which the opinion of the High Court is sought.
  • The application is sent to the clerk of the convicting magistrates’ court.
  • The magistrates may refuse to state a case, but this decision is reviewable by the High Court on an application for judicial review.
  • The first draft of the statement of the case must be prepared by the Justices’ Clerk and sent to you and the respondent within 21 days of receipt of an application.
  • Any representations must be made to the court within 21 days of receipt of the draft.
  • Once the final draft is completed, the magistrates sign it and send it to you.
  • When you receive the finalised case stated you must lodge three copies in the Administrative Court Office within 10 days of receiving it, together with: Form N161; a copy of the decision against which the appeal is being made, and the appropriate fee.
  • A copy of the case stated must be sent to the respondent within four days of it being lodged at the Administrative Court Office.


You may be granted bail pending the outcome of the hearing in the High Court. Bail will be granted on the basis that you return to the magistrates’ court within 10 days of the High Court hearing, unless the conviction is quashed.

The hearing

The court must consist of at least two judges, though there are usually three. The court acts entirely on the basis of the facts as set out in the case, and no new evidence is adduced.

Powers of the High Court

The High Court may affirm, reverse or vary the decision of the court below, make any other order it thinks fit, or remit it back to the original court with its opinion.

Application for judicial review

Under ss 29 and 31 of the Senior Courts Act 1981, you may challenge a decision by the magistrates’ court by way of judicial review. It is a challenge to the way in which a decision has been made rather than the correctness of the decision. The High Court exercises its control by the use of prerogative orders, namely mandamus, prohibition and certiorari orders.

  • A certiorari order has the effect of quashing the decision appealed against.
  • A mandamus order compels an inferior tribunal to carry out its public duties.
  • A prohibition order will be made to stop the court acting in excess of its powers, or acting contrary to the rules of natural justice.


The procedure is as follows:

  • You must file an application for leave to apply for judicial review with the High Court ‘promptly’ and certainly within three months. You must submit Form N461, together with a supporting statement of truth verifying the facts relied on and the appropriate fee.
  • A copy of the relevant order against which relief is sought must be lodged in the Administrative Court Office.
  • The application to the High Court judge is normally a ‘paper’ application (ie, no hearing), although an oral application can be requested on Form N461.
  • When the claim is lodged with the court, a sealed copy will be sent to you.
  • You must then serve a copy on the defendant and anyone you consider to be an interested party within seven days of issue of that sealed claim.
  • If the application for permission is refused you can ask that the decision be reconsidered at an oral hearing. This request must be lodged within seven days of being served with a notice of refusal.
  • There will be an oral hearing and the Administrative Court Office will advise all parties of the hearing date.
  • The court will reach a decision, and make any appropriate orders.


Magistrates have no power to grant bail for an application for judicial review.

About the Author

Nicola Laver LLB

Nicola is a dual qualified journalist and non-practising solicitor. She is a legal journalist, editor and author with more than 20 years' experience writing about the law.

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