Conviction in a magistrate's court
If convicted in a magistrate's court, the defendant can appeal against their:
- sentence and conviction
If the defendant appeals against their conviction, the whole trial will be heard at the county court in front of a judge. Witnesses will most likely have to go to court to give evidence again.
The judge might increase, reduce or leave the sentence as it is.
Sometimes the prosecution or the defence may believe that the magistrate's court has reached the wrong decision because they misinterpreted the law. The case may be passed to the Court of Appeal.
If the Court of Appeal decides that the magistrate’s court was wrong, it can order the magistrate's court to hear the case again, applying the point of law correctly.
Conviction from the Crown Court
A defendant convicted by the Crown Court can also appeal against their sentence or conviction, or both.
These appeals are heard by the Court of Appeal. They can quash the conviction (decide it is wrong), order a retrial or leave the conviction as it is.
The Court of Appeal also considers appeals against sentencing in the same way as a county court judge.
If the sentence imposed in the Crown Court for certain serious offences appears to be unduly lenient, that case can be referred to the Court of Appeal by the Director of Public Prosecutions.
If a defendant has gone through the whole appeal process and believes there has been a miscarriage of justice, they can apply to have their appeal considered by the Criminal Cases Review Commission.
The Commission can refer the case back to the Court of Appeal if they consider that there is a real possibility that a conviction or sentence would not be upheld.
The Royal Prerogative of Mercy
Under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy (RPM), the British monarch may grant pardons or reduce the sentence of a convicted person.
The Royal Prerogative of Mercy is used in cases involving an unjust conviction or punishment where the normal legal process has no remedy.
In terrorism convictions, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is responsible for exercising the Royal Prerogative of Mercy.
Compensation for a miscarriage of justice
Any person (or member of their family if deceased) who believes that they have suffered a miscarriage of justice as a result of a wrongful conviction may apply to the Department of Justice for compensation. Certain criteria must be met by the defendant:
- the conviction must be overturned on appeal or you must have been pardoned
- the ground for this should be that a new or newly discovered fact (fresh evidence) shows beyond reasonable doubt that there has been a miscarriage of justice
- the fresh evidence must, therefore, be the ground on which the appeal succeeded and must show that the person has suffered a miscarriage of justice
Appeals by victims
A victim, or a family member of a person who has died, does not have a right of appeal against a sentence imposed. If you think a sentence imposed is too lenient, you can contact the Director of Public Prosecutions about your concerns.
You must contact the Director of Public Prosecutions within 28 days of the sentence being imposed.
You can do this by writing to the Director or through a legal or public representative.