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Appealing Criminal Convictions

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Understanding the criminal conviction system can be challenging. In Australia, navigating the complexities of appealing once, let alone a second or subsequent appeal can be daunting. This article will break down how appealing can work and what grounds for appeal an individual might have to get a court date and an appeal hearing.

From the initial grounds for appeal to the appellate court’s role, we explore the vital aspects individuals must grasp to mount a robust challenge. Navigating the Australian legal system’s intricacies is a crucial step toward seeking justice and ensuring fair outcomes for everyone. Jameson Law can serve as your partner to help you through these difficulties. Contact us today for a consultation.

How to appeal

To appeal a criminal conviction in New South Wales, time is of the essence! You need to make sure that you Lodge your appeal within 28 days of the sentence being imposed, either against the conviction or sentence. It is important to remember that if you introduce fresh and compelling evidence

You can appeal ‘as of right’ by submitting a written notice to the Local Court Registrar or, if in custody, to the jail authority. Clearly state your general grounds for appeal in the notice. Another option is applying for leave to appeal, and submitting a written application along with the notice of appeal.

If you miss the 28-day limit, you can still apply for leave within three months, explaining the delay’s reasons. The court considers appeals beyond 28 days only if it deems it ‘in the interests of justice.’ The Registrar will inform you about the hearing’s time and place, and while short jail sentences may get appeals bail, it’s challenging for longer prison terms.

Getting a case to the Court of Criminal Appeal

The Court of Criminal Appeal is the highest court in New South Wales. To bring your case before the Court of Criminal Appeal (CCA) after being convicted of a serious crime, follow these steps. If convicted in the District or Supreme Court, you can apply to the CCA on legal grounds or, with permission, on factual or mixed grounds. The CCA reviews if evidence was correctly presented and if the judge provided proper legal guidance.

They may allow the appeal if the verdict seems unreasonable, legally incorrect, or if a miscarriage of justice occurred. Presenting all evidence during the trial is crucial. Seeking review by the High Court requires special permission and focuses on legal questions or matters of justice administration. Note that appeals about disagreements with your lawyer are rarely considered.

In most situations, claiming that your lawyer didn’t present your case effectively is highly challenging. Unless there are extraordinary circumstances, the appellate court usually dismisses concerns about disagreements with your lawyer, stating that such issues should have been addressed earlier. The general stance is that, except in extreme cases, the court is not interested in delving into personal disputes with legal representation, emphasizing the importance of resolving such matters beforehand. The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions provides a handy flowchart for you to better understand this process.

Fresh evidence in criminal appeals

Navigating the process of a criminal appeal in New South Wales can be rather tough. Fortunately, understanding how the court of appeal system works is s understanding of the nuanced procedures and options available, something that a great criminal attorney, like those of Jameson Law, can help you with!

In general, individuals have the right to challenge any Local Court conviction or sentence by appealing to the District Court, provided the appeal is submitted within the specified timeframe. However, obtaining permission, known as leave, from the District Court is necessary if the conviction occurred in one’s absence or resulted from a guilty plea.

The appeal process allows individuals to contest either the conviction, the sentence, or both. When uncertain, it is advisable to appeal on both grounds, as it is simpler to narrow down the issues during the hearing than to broaden them later.

As the State Library of New South Wales points out, Previously, the district court was the court of appeal for the NSW Local Court convictions. However, the current practice involves appeals against convictions being heard based on certified transcripts of evidence from the original Local Court proceedings. While there is an option to request the court’s permission to introduce fresh evidence, such admission depends on satisfying the court that it aligns with the broader interests of justice and generally will happen only in exceptional circumstances. Additionally, the court of appeal(The District Court) may allow for oral evidence to be introduced in exceptional circumstances – such as a substantial miscarriage of justice.

Individuals also have the option to escalate their appeal to the Supreme Court from the Local Court. A Supreme Court appeal ‘as of right’ relates to grounds involving questions of law exclusively. What this means is that you can only use the Supreme Court as your court of appeal if the issue you have with the sentence imposed is about the law itself and has nothing to do with evidence. That being said, a second or subsequent appeal could be allowed with the court’s permission that involves questions of fact or a combination of law and fact.

The Supreme Court holds the authority to set aside the conviction, order a re-determination by the original Local Court, or dismiss the appeal, depending on its evaluation of the case. This comprehensive understanding of the appeal process underscores the importance of individuals navigating these legal intricacies carefully when seeking redress against convictions. A legal professional can assist you with sentence appeals and get you seen before the necessary trial judge to prevent a substantial miscarriage of justice!


Appeals from the District or Supreme Court are heard in the Court of Criminal Appeal, which is the highest criminal court in NSW. Appeals from the Local Court are heard in the District Court.

No, most convictions in Australia are not reversed on appeal. While some appeals result in overturned convictions, the majority are upheld. Successful appeals often hinge on specific legal or procedural errors during the trial rather than a widespread reversal of convictions.

The appeals process is stringent, requiring compelling evidence or legal grounds for reconsideration. The outcome depends on the unique circumstances of each case, and successful appeals are relatively less common than upheld convictions.

  1. Legal Errors: If there were errors in the application of the law during the trial or sentencing.

  2. Factual Errors: If new evidence emerges that was not available during the trial and could potentially change the verdict.

  3. Procedural Irregularities: If there were significant procedural mistakes during the trial that may have impacted the outcome.

  4. Miscarriage of Justice: If there is a belief that a serious injustice has occurred, leading to an unfair conviction.

It's important to note that the grounds for appeal can vary based on jurisdiction.

Appealing "as of right" means you can automatically appeal without asking for special permission from the court. It's like having a built-in right to challenge a decision on specific grounds, usually related to legal issues. If your case involves a clear legal question, you don't need extra approval to appeal – you can just go ahead. This is different from appeals that need the court's permission, where you have to formally ask for approval to proceed. "As of right" appeals make the process simpler for those with valid reasons to appeal, as they can move forward without extra steps.

Appealing a conviction means challenging the guilty verdict, often based on legal errors or procedural mistakes. Success can lead to a retrial or modified charges. On the other hand, appealing a sentence involves contesting the severity or appropriateness of the punishment after a conviction. Grounds may include disproportional sentencing or overlooked factors.

If successful, the sentence can be reduced, increased, or modified. While connected, these processes address different aspects of a criminal case – one questions guilt, and the other questions the punishment. Seeking legal advice is crucial to navigate these distinct appeal procedures.


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