When imposing a sentence, the Magistrates Court must consider the Sentencing Guidelines for a particular offence. However, sometimes mistakes are made and a defendant may think they have been given a heavy penalty. Appeals against sentence allow these decisions to be reviewed, and are a crucial part of the criminal justice process.
Appeals against sentence can deal with the following:
- Custodial sentences
- Suspended Sentence Orders
- Community Orders
- Revocation of a Community Order for breach
- Disqualification from driving
- Special reasons decisions
- Exceptional hardship decisions
- Destruction Orders under the Dangerous Dogs Act
It is important to note that if a person wants to appeal against a prison sentence, they can make an application for “bail pending appeal.” This means that the Court could release them on bail until the appeal against sentence can be heard. However, it is more common for the Court to try and list the appeal against sentence urgently, to reduce the risk of someone being imprisoned for longer than is necessary if the appeal is allowed.
In a similar way, if you are disqualified from driving and want to appeal the decision, you are able to apply to the Court to suspend your disqualification until your appeal can be heard.
Appeals against sentence from the Magistrates Court are heard by the Crown Court. When the Court hears a sentence appeal, a Judge and two magistrates will hear the details of the offence and the original sentence. They will be told the appellant’s mitigation, and consider the sentencing guidelines to decide what the appropriate sentence should be. The hearing works as if it it was a completely new sentencing hearing.
There are three outcomes for appeals against sentence:
- If the Court agrees the original sentence was too harsh, they will allow the appeal. A new sentence will be imposed, either for a shorter period of time or with fewer requirements;
- If the Court thinks that the original sentence was fair on balance, the appeal will be dismissed and the original sentence will continue to be effective; or
- The Court has the power to increase the sentence if they believe that the original sentence was too lenient. This is uncommon, but it is something to be aware ofwhen deciding to appeal.
There are very strict rules relating to appeals against sentence, especially the time limits to inform the Court that you want to challenge the original decision. You have to lodge a notice of appeal within 21 days of the date of sentence. If you do not send your appeal notice to the Court in this time, you may not be allowed to appeal.
It is important that if you are thinking about appealing a decision from the Magistrates Court, you have advice from an experienced, specialist criminal defence barrister or solicitor as soon as possible.
If you or someone you know have a question about appeals against sentence, contact us to see how we can help you.