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Archive for the ‘Court Procedure’ Category

Appeal from Crown Court: A Q&A From Forrest Williams

appeal from crown court


Appeal from Crown Court: Your Questions Answered


I want to appeal from crown court – what should I do?


Q: Do I have the right to appeal from crown court?


A: Yes, you can appeal against sentence and conviction (if you pleaded not guilty) and, if you pleaded guilty, you can appeal against sentence and possibly against conviction.  This is not an automatic right, however.


Q: Do I need to have grounds to appeal?


A: Yes. You can normally only appeal if something went ‘wrong’ at the trial (i.e. if an important court procedure wasn’t followed properly) or if there is new evidence (i.e. a witness who wasn’t at the original trial – for appeals against conviction only).  You cannot simply appeal from crown court because you consider that the decision made was wrong.


Q: It sounds complicated. Should I get legal advice first?


A: Yes, it is complicated! We would strongly urge you to get expert advice before you make a decision about whether or not to appeal from crown court.


Q: How do I appeal from crown court?


A: You need to apply to the Criminal Appeal Office to get permission to appeal. They will put your application before a judge. There is a form to complete.  This is not a simple process and you will certainly require a legal team to do this work for you.  Forrest Williams are specialists in this area and we are happy to help.  Give us a call on 01623 397200.


Q: Is there a deadline for an appeal?


A: Yes. For an appeal against conviction, you must appeal within 28 days of the date of your conviction – even if you were sentenced at a later date. If you wish to appeal against sentence only, the 28 day period starts from the date you were sentenced.  Out of time applications are considered in some circumstances.


Q: What happens next if I get permission to appeal?


A: If permission is granted, your appeal will be heard by the Court of Appeal. You will be notified of the hearing date and location a few weeks before the appeal.


Q: What if I am refused permission to appeal?


A: You will receive a letter to say you have not been granted permission to appeal.


Q: What if I am refused permission, but I still want an appeal to take place?


A: You have the right to renew your application and ask a ‘full court’ of 2 or 3 judges to give you permission. The letter will explain how to do this.


Q: What if the ‘full court’ refuses permission to appeal?


A: You can contact the Criminal Cases Review Commission.


Q: What happens if I am granted an appeal, and it is successful?


A: If you win your appeal, your conviction and sentence will no longer stand. You may receive compensation.


Q: What if I lose my appeal?


A: Your original conviction will stay the same. You won’t be able to appeal again unless the Criminal Cases Review Commission refers your case back to the Court of Appeal.


Q: What if I start the appeal process – then decide I want to stop it?


A: You can stop your appeal at any time. There is a form for this.


If you are unhappy with a crown court decision, and are considering lodging an appeal, please speak with us first.  We are happy to offer free initial advice on 01623 397200.


Appeal Against Magistrates Court: A Handy Q&A

appeal against magistrates court


How To Appeal Against Magistrates Court Decision


Q: Do I have the right to appeal against magistrates court decision?


A: If you pleaded not guilty to a criminal charge, and you were unsuccessful at trial, you have the right to appeal against conviction, sentence or both.


Q: What if I pleaded guilty but am unhappy with the outcome?


A: You can appeal against your sentence, but not your conviction.


Q: Is there a time limit?


A: Yes. You should appeal within 21 days of the date you were sentenced.


Q: What if my hearing was more than 21 days ago? Can I still appeal?


A: It may still be possible to appeal, but you would need the permission of the crown court.


Q: How do I appeal?


A: A Notice of Appeal must be completed and submitted to the magistrates’ court which sentenced you.  This will need to set out the legal issues in the case that form the basis of your Appeal.


Q: What happens next?


A: You will be notified of your appeal date in due course. This is usually within a few weeks, and held at the crown court nearest to the magistrates’ court where you were sentenced.


Q: What happens if my appeal is successful?


A: If your appeal against conviction is successful, then your sentence no longer applies. You may receive compensation. If your appeal against sentence is successful, your sentence will be reduced. You may be able to claim back a partial refund of legal costs (i.e. some of the fees paid to a solicitor).


Q: What if my appeal is unsuccessful?


A: You need to be aware before you appeal against magistrates court decision that there are three possible outcomes: the sentence could be improved, made worse, or remain the same. If the appeal is not successful, you do not have an automatic right to pursue any further attempts to appeal.  If an error in law has been made, further Appeal options may be available.  You would need specialist advice about whether or not to proceed. You may be ordered to pay costs.


If you are unhappy with a court decision, and are considering lodging an appeal, please speak with us first. We are happy to offer free initial advice on 01623 397200.

Unfit To Plead In Criminal Cases

Katie Forrest and Steve Williams of Forrest Williams

Katie Forrest and Steve Williams of Forrest Williams

Unfit To Plead In Criminal Cases

There is a lot of discussion in the press at the moment about historic sex offences and individuals ‘escaping’ justice because they are not considered ‘Fit to plead’.

The test for Fitness to Plead is whether the defendant is suffering from a ‘disability’ and lawyers often refer to the ‘Pritchard’ test (coming from the 1836 case of R v Pritchard).  It can refer to any disability that would stop the defendant taking an effective part in a trial but must be one which cannot be rectified – for example, someone who doesn’t speak English would be ‘unfit to plead’, but this can be easily cured by providing an interpreter so would not satisfy the test.

The questions to be addressed include:

  • Can the defendant understand the proceedings?
  • Do they have the intellectual capacity to put forward a defence?
  • Can they challenge a juror?
  • Can they understand the evidence?
  • Can they understand what is meant by pleading guilty or not guilty?
  • Can they give instructions to their lawyer (tell them their side of the story and how to conduct the case)?

For a Court to hold that a defendant is unfit they must have the evidence of a minimum of two doctors, at least one of whom is approved under the Mental Health Act.

If the defendant is found fit to plead, then the matter proceeds as normal. But if the defendant is found unfit to plead, then there is a ‘trial of issue’. This is to decide if the defendant ‘did the act or omission’ alleged against him. The Prosecution put forward their evidence to the court and Jury as normal. But, because, inherent in the finding that the defendant is unfit, the defence have been unable to get an account from the defendant to be able to challenge the evidence there is a limit to what they can do. They will, as much as possible, take an active part in the proceedings to ensure that they are fair.

If the jury find that they are not sure that the defendant did the act, then that is the end of the matter and a ‘not guilty’ verdict entered. If the jury are sure that the defendant did the act, then the matter moves to the ‘disposal stage’.

The disposals available to the court are:

  • Hospital Order (with or without restrictions)
  • Supervision Order
  • Absolute Discharge

The Judge will decide which is most appropriate in the case before him, with the exception of murder cases, in which case they must impose a Hospital Order with Restrictions.

For ease of explanation we have used a case study to help.

Lord Janner is one such high profile defendant where allegations have been made (but crucially not yet proven in a court of law). Initially, in April 2015, the Crown Prosecution Service decided that it was not in the Public Interest to proceed with the prosecution.

The CPS were very open in their initial decision not to prosecute, basing it upon medical evidence and explaining as follows (summarised):

  • Lord Janner is suffering from a degenerative dementia which is rapidly becoming more severe. He requires continuous care both day and night.
  • Four doctors assessed him and were in general agreement as to the level of cognitive ability.
  • The doctors confirmed that the condition will only deteriorate and there is no prospect of recovery. Manipulation (“putting it on”) is “out of the question”.
  • His evidence could not be relied upon in court and he could not have any meaningful engagement with the court process, and the court would find it impossible to proceed.
  • There is no risk of future offending.

In effect they said that whilst they felt that the evidential test was met, it was not in the public interest to proceed with a prosecution because, given his mental state, it could not result in a criminal conviction or, by consequence, a custodial sentence. A prosecution would take at least a year to conclude (probably longer), and the trial would be many weeks, if not months, at great expense, if it went its full course.

This decision has now been overturned.

Lord Janner will now face a ‘Fitness to Plead’ hearing.  If it is held that he is unfit to plead then a case against him will go through the court system but it will not be a traditional prosecution as one would expect in that it will not result in a criminal conviction against him as he will not have been offered the opportunity to put forward a defence against the allegations – and the right to defend oneself against an allegation is a fundamental principle of the UK Legal System.

If an individual close to you is being investigated for, or has been charged with, an offence and you believe that they may be ‘unfit to plead’ then give the Forrest Williams Team a call on 001623 397200 and we would be happy to discuss this with you further.



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