Unit 1 Criminal Courts


Three Magistrates always hear a case where they then decide the verdict and sentence. The Defendant and the Magistrates can decide where triable either way offences are heard.

Appeals go to Crown Court (1 judge, 2 Magistrates)

D has automatic right to appeal against his: conviction and sentence

For verdict the Crown Court can: 

  • Uphold verdict (agree)
  • Quash verdict (disagree)
  • Vary it (change to a less serious conviction)

For sentence the Crown Court can:

  • Uphold (agree)
  • Drecrease (change the sentence)
  • Increase (but only to Mags maximum power- 6 months in prison)
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The prosecution and defence are also able to make a case stated appeal (on a point of law)

This is where they believe the Magistrates misapplied or misinterpreted the law (Smith v Hughes)

The Queen's Bench Divisional Court (2 or 3 High Court judges) can:

  • Confirm (agree)
  • Reverse (disagree)
  • Remit (send case back to Magistrates for them to apply it)
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Crown Court

Jury (of 12) and a judge hear these cases. The judge advises the jury on the law.

The defence can appeal against his conviction and sentence, but must be granted Leave by the judge (permission) 

For the verdict the Court of Appeal (3 judges/ Lord Justices) can:

  • Uphold it (Agree)
  • Quash it (only if unreliable evidence) and may order a retrial
  • Vary it (can only reduce conviction)

R v George

For the sentence they can:

  • Uphold it (agree)
  • Decrease it (can not increase it)

R v Herbert

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Crown Court

Just like the Magistrates' court the prosecution and defence can make a case stated appeal.

Either could appeal because they believe

1. The law was misapplied or misunderstood

2. The judge gave the wrong information to the jury

The Queen's Bench Divisional court (2 or 3 High Court judges) can:

  • Confirm (agree)
  • Reverse (disagree)
  • Remit (send back to Crown Court with correct law)
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Case examples

Crown Court Appeals

Appeals against conviction 

R v George

Court of Appeal upheld his conviction on his first appeal. Was granted 'leave' due to new evidence being found and Court of Appeal quashed his conviction and ordered a retrial. At his retrial the jury found him not guilty.

Appeals against sentence

R v Herbert and others

Court of Appeal reduced defendant's sentence by 9 months to give him credit for pleading guilty.

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The Prosecution can't appeal against D's conviction or sentence but can appeal by 1 of these 4:

1. Appeal against a judge's ruling

The Criminal Justice Act 2003 says that if a judge makes a ruling on a point of law which stops the case (and results in D being acquitted) the prosecution can appeal against this ruling.

2. Appeal against acquittal (can be done for two reasons):

  • Due to 'jury nobbling'. If D is acquitted due to a juror being bribed or threatened
  • Due to new and compelling evidence. Crim Just Act 03 says if later evidence comes up which points to D's guilt, the prosecution can appeal and ask C of A to quash their acquittal.

3. Appeal by referring a point of law

Crim Just Act 1972 says if judge has made an error when explaining the law to the jury, the attorney gerenal can ask the C of A to make a ruling to clarify. This won't quash the acquittal but will make a precedent for the future.

4. Appeal against an 'unduly lenient' sentence

The Crim Just Act 1988 says Prosecution can send a case back to C of A is the sentence is deemed 'unduly lenient' (too soft).

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Case examples

Appeal against an 'unduly lenient' sentence.

R v Yates (Rhys Jones murder)

Provided Sean Mercer with the killing weapon (a gun) had his sentence increased from 7 years to 12 years for possessing a weapon and assisting an offender

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