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Conviction Appeals

Many clients come to Sydney Criminal Lawyers after receiving unsatisfactory representation by other criminal lawyers or representing themselves, and consequently being found guilty in the Local, District or Supreme Court.

Alternatively, they feel that the Magistrate or Judge made errors of judgment; whether in finding guilt or applying the law.

If you were wrongly found guilty for whatever reason, a ‘conviction appeal’ can be lodged to overturn that finding.

If you are considering a conviction appeal, Sydney Criminal Lawyers® can provide you with accurate advice about your chances of winning and outstanding representation throughout the appeal process.

1. Conviction Appeals from the Local Court to the District Court

The general deadline for lodging a conviction appeal is 28 days after finalisation of the Local Court matter.

However, that deadline may be extended to 3 months if there were good reasons for the delay eg you were ill and hospitalised or were otherwise unable to lodge the appeal within the general timeframe.

The matter will then be listed for a ‘Mention’ (a short court date) for the ‘transcript of the Local Court hearing’ to be ordered and prepared.

The ‘transcript’ is the oral evidence given by witnesses during the Local Court proceedings and the Magistrate’s judgement.

That document can take up to 8 weeks to prepare.

Once the transcript is ready, the appeal will be listed for hearing before a District Court Judge.

At the hearing, the Judge will read the transcript and review any ‘exhibits’; which are items tendered during the Local Court hearing such as photos, maps, police statements, phone records, bank statements, weapons, clothing, police interviews etc.

The Judge will then hear verbal submissions from the lawyers, after which the Judge will either:

  • uphold the appeal and quash the finding of guilt, or
  • refuse the appeal and confirm the finding of guilt.

Although conviction appeals are normally determined on the transcript, exhibits and verbal submissions only, there are certain circumstances where permission can be requested to use extra evidence; eg where fresh information comes to light after the finalisation of the Local Court proceedings.

Also, if an ‘all grounds appeal’ has been lodged – which is an appeal against both conviction and sentence – the Judge can impose a more lenient sentence despite confirming the finding of guilt.

For example, the Judge can quash the criminal conviction and impose a ‘section 10 dismissal or conditional release order‘ instead; which is a finding of guilt without a criminal conviction.

2. Conviction Appeals from the District Court to the Supreme Court

A range of scenarios can properly ground a conviction appeal from the District Court to the Supreme Court, or ‘NSWCCA’.

These may include:

  • where the District Court Judge ‘misdirected’ the jury about an aspect of the law;
  • where the Judge ‘admitted evidence’ that should have been excluded;
  • where the Judge refused to admit evidence that should have been admitted;
  • where the Jury reached a verdict that was not supported by the evidence; or
  • where the incompetence of the Accused’s legal representative/s caused a miscarriage of justice.

The first step in the appeal process is to lodge a Notice of Intention to Appeal within 28 days.

The next step is to file a Notice of Appeal within 6 months thereafter.

The matter will receive a court date at which time a timetable will be set for filing Grounds of Appeal and Written Submissions.

The Grounds of Appeal and Written Submissions will be based upon the ‘trial transcript’, ‘exhibits’ and applicable laws.

The ‘trial transcript’ contains the oral evidence and judgments given during the District Court trial.

The ‘exhibits’ are the items tendered in court, such as photos, maps, police statements, phone records, bank statements, weapons, clothing, police interviews etc.

Your criminal lawyer will carefully consider the transcript and exhibits in light of relevant case-law and legislation, before preparing the Grounds of Appeal and Written Submissions.

The appeal will ultimately reach a hearing before Justices of the NSWCCA who will consider all materials, hear verbal submissions and decide whether to confirm or quash the conviction.

3. High Court Appeals

The High Court is Australia’s highest court and is comprised of 7 judges called ‘Justices’.

High Court Appeals are normally based upon complex questions of law and legal doctrine.

An applicant must initially seek ‘special leave’ to appeal to the High Court (ie permission). There is no ‘right of appeal’.

A ‘special leave application’ can be complex in itself; containing a wide range of materials and involving a significant amount of work.

If that application is successful, a hearing will ultimately occur before one or more High Court Justices.

The number of Justices will often depend on the nature, complexity and importance of the legal issues involved.

The rules concerning High Court Appeals are strict and the matters must be treated with utmost seriousness, care and diligence.

This an area where only highly-specialised and properly-experienced criminal lawyers should be instructed.

Sydney Criminal Lawyers® has conducted numerous important and successful High Court Appeals over the years.

Our criminal lawyers are on the High Court roll and can be instructed in the most serious and complex criminal matters.

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