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This page deals with appeals against sentence from both the Crown Court and magistrates courts, they are very different things despite having the same name so it is important that you understand the rules that must be followed for each and the criteria for bringing an appeal from each.
From the Crown Court
If you have been convicted in the Crown Court then you can only appeal your sentence if the judge has imposed a penalty that is unlawful or is manifestly excessive, in other words a sentence that is far too harsh as opposed to one that is a bit too harsh.
Appeals must be lodged with the Crown Court that sentenced you within 28 days of the sentence being imposed even if you appeal in time you will still require permission to appeal from a judge of the Court of Appeal. It is possible to appeal out of time; however, you will need to convince the appeal court judge that there are good reasons for allowing you to appeal out of time.
The notice of appeal must be accompanied by grounds of appeal, which are drawn up by a barrister who has advised that such grounds do exist. The appeal then takes place before the Court of Appeal.
The key to a successful appeal against sentence lies in the law and finding past cases that show clearly that the sentence you received is unduly harsh or even unlawful. A sentence might be too harsh because the judge has misunderstood the law, but equally he may place too much weight on one or more of the prosecutor’s assertions or, conversely, may award too little weight to the defence account of the incident. Once we can say what the sentencing judge has got wrong we will be in a strong position to argue for a lighter sentence before the Court of Appeal.
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From a magistrates court
An appeal against sentence from the magistrates is entirely different form an appeal from the Crown Court. When you appeal against a sentence imposed by the magistrates the appeal will be heard by judge sitting in the Crown Court rather than in the Court of Appeal.
You must appeal within 21 days of sentence being imposed in the magistrates court so the time line is slightly shorter. When you do appeal, the process is much simpler than in the Crown Court. You do not need to identify particular issues nor show that the sentence imposed was “manifestly excessive”. In fact, you have the absolute right to appeal sentence from the magistrates to the Crown Court.
The appeal hearing takes the form of a complete rehearing of the original sentencing as if the original sentence had never been imposed, although if you are unsuccessful the Crown Court will usually leave the original sentence unchanged rather than imposing a completely new one.
As with appeals to the Court of Appeal, it is important to properly identify why you say the original sentence was wrong and to provide evidence that the law says you should be treated more leniently.