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Victims' Guide - After the trial: appeals

You have the right under the Victims’ Code to be given information about any appeals in the case. Your police contact will let you know if there are any appeals.

If the defendant has been found ‘not guilty,’ we can’t appeal the verdict. This is because the law does not give us the right to appeal against the decision of the jury.

In very rare circumstances, it may be possible for us to ask the court to quash the acquittal and ask for a retrial if the police find ‘new and compelling’ evidence which was not available at the time of the original trial. However, these cases are extremely rare as the standard of evidence needed to order a retrial is very high.

If the defendant wants to appeal their conviction or sentence

If the defendant is found ‘guilty,’ they can appeal against their conviction – this means they are asking for it to be overturned because they don’t believe they should have been found ‘guilty’.

They can also appeal against the severity of their sentence. This means they aren’t challenging the fact that they’ve been found ‘guilty’ but that they believe the punishment they’ve been given is too harsh.

After a trial in the magistrates’ court

Defendants who have been convicted after a trial in the magistrates, court have an automatic right to an appeal, should they wish to do so.

If a defendant appeals, the case will be heard again by a judge and a panel of magistrates in the Crown Court. Sometimes this will mean you will be asked to give evidence again. If this happens the police will explain this to you.

Defendants in these cases can also ask to appeal ‘on a point of law’ to the High Court. This means that they are saying that the law was misapplied to their case. The right to this type of appeal isn’t automatic. If the High Court agrees to hear this type of appeal it will involve legal arguments only and you will not be asked to give evidence again.

The police will let you know if the defendant has made an appeal and keep you up-to-date with the details of any hearings.

After a trial in the Crown Court

To make an appeal after a trial in the Crown Court a defendant needs to have ‘grounds’ for appeal. This means they have to have a legal reason why they think the verdict is wrong. For example, if they say that the judge did not conduct the trial in a fair way or made legal mistakes.  If a defendant wants to appeal, a judge from the Court of Appeal needs to agree that they have ‘grounds’ to appeal.

If a defendant is allowed to appeal, their case will be sent to the Court of Appeal, who can uphold the conviction, overturn the conviction so that the defendant is found not guilty or overturn the conviction and order that a new trial is held.

Appealing a sentence that is too short (unduly lenient sentences)

In certain types of cases, including rape and serious sexual assault, anyone has the right to ask for a defendant’s sentence to be reviewed if they think it is unduly lenient (unreasonably low). If we think a sentence is unduly lenient we will recommend that it should be reviewed.

The Attorney General’s Office, which is a government department, is responsible for reviewing these cases. The person who wants to appeal the sentence needs to contact the Attorney General’s Office as soon as possible (at the absolute latest before 5pm 28 calendar days after sentencing).

If the Attorney General’s Office agrees that the sentence is too short (unduly lenient) they will send the case to the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal will then decide whether or not to hear the case. If they hear the case, they will decide whether to keep the sentence the same or increase it.

You can read more about appealing unreasonably low sentences on the Attorney General’s website.

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