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What is an appeal

An appeal may be filed by an accused person or the prosecution to reverse one or more of the following types of court decisions:

  • Conviction or acquittal: Whether you are guilty of an offence.
  • Sentence: The punishment ordered against you, such as an imprisonment term or fine.
  • Court order: Any other directions made in the trial or mention, such as a direction for you to do or not do something.

After you have filed an appeal, the court will ask you to attend a hearing to present your case.

Tip
If you appeal against your sentence, the judge may reduce it or enhance the sentence, or change the type of punishment ordered. You may wish to seek legal advice before deciding whether to appeal.

Who can appeal

Both the accused and the prosecution can file an appeal. Victims and other people not involved in the court case cannot appeal.

If you are prosecutor in a private prosecution, you may not appeal against the court's decision unless you have obtained permission from the Attorney-General to do so. 

If you are the defendant in a private prosecution, you can appeal against the court's decision.

The party who files an appeal is known as the appellant.

What can be appealed against

You can only appeal against a decision made by the court.

If you pleaded guilty, you cannot appeal against your conviction. You can only appeal against your sentence or any other order made by the court.

Note
If you wish to retract your plea of guilt after you have been sentenced, you may apply for a criminal revision at the General Division of the High Court.

If you did not plead guilty, you can appeal against your conviction, sentence and court order, or any combination of these.

This table summarises what you can appeal against in each scenario:

If you... What you can appeal against
Pleaded guilty Sentence, court order, or both.
Claimed trial (did not plead guilty)Conviction, sentence, court order or any combination of these.

Grounds of appeal

You should have reasons to support why you are dissatisfied with the court's decision.

For example, if you are appealing against your conviction, your appeal should be based on one or more of the following:

  • An error of law: If you think the judge made a mistake in the content or application of the law.
  • An error of fact: If you think the judge made a mistake about material facts (for example, by deciding that something happened when it did not).

If you are appealing against your sentence, you need to show that the punishment is unfair or unduly harsh in the circumstances of the case, for example, when compared to the harm caused by the offence or any previous case involving similar facts and circumstances.

The court may reject your appeal without a hearing if you do not provide any reasons which could raise a reasonable doubt as to the correctness of the court's decision. (1)

Deadline for appeal

To start the appeal process, you must file a Notice of Appeal within 14 days of a sentence or order.

This includes the weekends, but excludes the day on which the sentence was made.

Example

If the date of your sentence or order is 1 September, you must file your appeal by 15 September.

Note: If you were charged before 2 Jan 2011, the deadline is 10 days.

Which court will hear the appeal

The General Division of the High Court will hear appeals against decisions made by the State Courts (Magistrate’s Court or District Court). Find out how to appeal against a decision of the State Courts.

The Court of Appeal will hear appeals against decisions made by the General Division of the High Court (excluding the appeals it handles). Find out how to appeal against a decision of the High Court.

Outcomes of appeal

These are the possible outcomes if you appeal:

Judge's decision What it means
Appeal is allowed You get some or all of the changes you asked for. For example, your conviction is set aside, the sentence is reduced or changed, or the court order is reversed or altered.
Appeal is dismissed There are no changes to the original court's decision.
Enhancement in sentence When you appeal against your sentence, the judge may decide to increase it.

Retrial or remitted to the original courtThe case is sent back to the original court for a retrial, or for other reasons such as for further evidence to be recorded.

The court's decision on appeal is final and cannot be further appealed against.

In some exceptional cases, you may refer a question of law of public interest to the Court of Appeal if your case qualifies. (2)

What happens if the prosecution appeals

The prosecution can appeal against one or more of the following court decisions:

  • Your acquittal order (if you were found not guilty).
  • Your sentence or court order.

If the appeal is successful, one or more of the following may happen:

Prosecution appeals against your... If the appeal is allowed...
Acquittal You will be convicted.
Sentence or court order Your sentence or court order may be altered.

In other instances, the appeal judge may dismiss the appeal or send the case back to the original court for a retrial or for other reasons, such as for further evidence to be recorded.

Need help?

The information here is for general guidance as the courts do not provide legal advice. If you need further help, you may want to get independent legal advice.

Find out more

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