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Case study law

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Introduction

Q Basil, aged 21, has been found guilty of robbery in Granchester Crown Court. He threatened a passer-by and demanded that he give him his bicycle. Basil said he only wanted to borrow it to get home. He wishes to appeal. To which court does the appeal lie from the crown court and on what ground can an appeal be brought? Consider the present appeal system in criminal cases and assess whether it sufficiently protects the defendant from miscarriages of justice. (25 Marks) The Court of Appeal hears appeals from the Crown Court against conviction and sentence. Appeals against sentence may only be made with leave. Appeals against conviction on matters of law may be made as of right, but leave of the court is needed for other reasons e.g. in the question on a question of fact or on a mixed question of law and fact, leave of the Court of Appeal is required unless the trial judge certify that the case is fit for appeal. About three-quarters of appeals are against sentence only. The Court of Appeal may hear evidence that was not available at the original trial but it does not happen frequently and the court mainly relies on transcripts and legal arguments. ...read more.

Middle

appeal against the judge's ruling on a point of law at a preparatory hearing before the jury is empanelled. Under the Criminal Justice Act 2003 the prosecution can also appeal against a "terminating ruling" made by the judge during the course of the trial, or against any other ruling (such as the exclusion of important evidence) that significantly weakens the prosecution's case, before the case is finally entrusted to the jury. Such an appeal must be lodged almost immediately, and the trial is adjourned while the Court of Appeal considers the matter. The prosecution cannot formally appeal against the sentence, but the Attorney-General can refer an "excessively lenient" sentence to the Court of Appeal. The Court studies the transcript and hears legal argument; it may then increase (or reduce) the sentence. The Attorney-General can also refer a point of law to the Court of Appeal: the Court hears legal argument and rules on the point of law. This sets a precedent for future cases, but does not affect the instant case. Either side can then appeal (with leave) to the House of Lords on a point of law of general public importance. ...read more.

Conclusion

This was not particularly successful, because the Home Secretary as a politician didn't want to be seen as soft on crime, and the Court of Appeal were still reluctant to overturn a jury's verdict unless there was powerful new evidence. In April 1997, a Criminal Cases Review Commission took over the Home Secretary's responsibility for investigating alleged miscarriages of justice and referring them back to the Court of Appeal where it thinks it appropriate. (It may also refer a conviction in the magistrates' court to the Crown Court, as if it were an appeal there.) The Commission has a staff of about 60 - three times as many as dealt with appeals in the Home Office under the old system - but detailed investigative work is still done by the police. The Birmingham Six case is a clear example of a miscarriage of justice, but it is not easy to see how the judicial process could have prevented its occurring. It emerged fifteen years after the conviction that the scientific evidence of recent contact with nitroglycerine might have come from traces of ordinary soap, and (more significantly) that police officers had deliberately lied on oath and/or falsified interview records, these having been "absolutely critical" evidence at the trial. ...read more.

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