08 Sep Appeal from Magistrates Court Sentence
Have you been charged and convicted of a crime?
If so, was the penalty excessive? Or worse still -were you innocent of the charges but still convicted?
An accused has the right of appeal to the County Court from the Magistrates’ Court, against conviction and/or sentence. There are time limits to do this, however. A notice of appeal must be filed with the registrar of the Magistrates’ Court within 28 days of sentence.
An appeal once heard is like a fresh hearing and you are not bound by what your plea was in the Magistrates’ Court. What this means is that the appeal is by way of hearing de novo and the judge in the County Court engages in a fresh exercise of sentencing discretion, limited to the sentencing power of the Magistrates’ Court. However, the paperwork provided to the court means that the judge will still be aware of the sentence imposed in the Magistrates’ Court, and the magistrate who imposed it.
Be aware however that appealing is not an exercise to carry out because you “have nothing to lose”. The fresh exercise of sentencing discretion means that the judge can also increase the sentence which was initially imposed. However, the judge is required to warn the appellant, as soon as possible, that that is a possibility.
If you are appealing a conviction from the Magistrates’ Court, you should obtain the recording of the hearing in the Magistrates’ Court, since all of the witnesses will be required to give evidence again. The recording is often a good source of prior inconsistent statements. Remember that the prosecution may also obtain the recording.
Just as the convicted person can appeal, the DPP has a right of appeal if of the view that the appeal is in the public interest. They will often do this if the sentence was manifestly unjust and believe it didn’t send strong enough a message to the community.
A person convicted in the Magistrates Court also appeal to the Supreme Court on a question of law. This is not often used given the appeal to the County Court is a fresh hearing.
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