There are three ways of appealing against the decision of the magistrates:
You may appeal against your conviction and/or sentence to the Crown Court.
If you are in custody and give notice of appeal, the magistrates may grant you. 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.
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.
The Crown Court may:
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
The procedure is as follows:
Magistrates have no power to grant bail for an application for judicial review.
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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