Rights of Appeal
A person who is convicted of an offence enjoys a right of appeal to a higher court. District Court convictions may be appealed to the Circuit Court.
Circuit Criminal Court Special Criminal Court and Central Criminal Court convictions may be appealed to the Court of Appeal (formerly the Court of Criminal Appeal).
There is the possibility of a further right of appeal on an important point of law to the Supreme Court.
District Court Appeals
In the case of the District Court, there may appeal against the sentence only. Alternatively, there may be a full appeal with a full rehearing in the Circuit Court. An appeal to the Circuit Court is a new hearing. In this case, the Circuit Court sits without a jury.
Where the appeal is taken only in relation to sentence either as stated in the notice of appeal, or as later limited at the appeal, the Circuit Court rehears the case only to the extent necessary to determine the issue of sentence. The District Court Clerk transmits the papers in the case to the Circuit Court office.
There is a right of appeal to the Circuit Court in criminal cases against most District Court decisions. It does not apply, however, to an order returning a person for trial (to the Circuit Court), binding a person to the peace or good behaviour or both.
After the rehearing, the Circuit Court, may confirm, overturn or change the District Court decision/order. The Circuit Court cannot impose a sanction greater than that allowed under the District Court jurisdiction. The Circuit Court’s determination is final and it’s not subject to further appeal. It can be subject to judicial review. See generally the section on judicial review.
Case State from District Court
Separate from an appeal, three is a possibility of a case stated from the District Court to the High Court. There are two types of case stated. They involve references of distinct points of law for the opinion of the High Court.
After hearing by the District Court, either party, if dissatisfied with the decision as erroneous in law may apply in writing within 14 days to the Court to state and sign a case, setting out the facts for determination of the opinion of the High Court. The determination of the District Court may be suspended, in certain circumstances, subject to conditions.
There is separate jurisdiction for the District Court to refer a case stated during proceedings. The District Court shall make the reference unless it considers the matter frivolous. Once again, the point of law is referred to the High Court for determination. An appeal lies with the consent of the High Court to the Court of Appeal from the High Court determination.
Appeal from Higher Courts
The appeal from the higher criminal courts, the Circuit Criminal Courts, Central Criminal Court and Special Criminal Court, formerly required a certificate from the judge. Alternatively, the Court of Appeal could itself give leave to appeal and could hear the application for the leave to appeal as the appeal itself. This no longer applies.
The Court of Appeal does not rehear the case. It bases its decision on the transcript and other materials.
The Court of Appeal may not simply substitute its own view of the evidence for that of the jury. If there is credible evidence to support the jury’s verdict then it should not interfere unless the verdict is perverse.
Powers of Court of Appeal
The Court of Appeal may affirm a conviction, reverse it, or vary it. It may reduce or increase sentences. The Court of Appeal does not rehear the case. On hearing an appeal against a conviction, the court may
- affirm the conviction notwithstanding that it is of the opinion that the point raised on the appeal might be decided in favour of the appellant if it considers the no miscarriage of justice has actually occurred.
- quash the conviction and make no further order, or
- order a retrial for the same offence.
Where the appeal is based on new or additional evidence, it may direct the Garda Commissioner to make inquiries as the court considers necessary for the purpose of determining whether further evidence should be adduced. It may order the production of documents. It may order persons who would have been compellable as witnesses to attend for examination and the court may receive such evidence. Generally, it may make such order as is necessary for purpose of doing justice in the case.
If the Court of Appeal quashes a conviction, but from the facts proved, on which the jury must have been satisfied, the appellant could have been found guilty of another offence, it may substitute a verdict convicting the accused of the other offence and impose a sentence in substitution for the sentence imposed as may be authorised.
In hearing an appeal against sentence, the Court of Appeal may quash the sentence and, in its place, impose such sentence or orders as it considers appropriate, being a sentence or order which could have been imposed on the convicted person for the offence. This possibility which may lead to a high sentence was first provided by the Criminal Procedure Act 1993.
Appeal by Prosecution
The Director of Public Prosecutions may appeal a sentence, which is unduly lenient. The application is made on notice to the convicted person within 28 days or such longer period up to 56 days as may be allowed by the Court. On application, the court may substitute a longer (or shorter) sentence.
Where a person is acquitted on indictment, the Attorney General or DPP may appeal against orders for costs made by the trial judge against them to the Court of Criminal Appeal.
There is provision for a case stated from the Circuit Court analogous to that in respect of the District Court directly to the Court of Appeal.
An appeal against refusal of bail by the High Court on a Habeas Corpus application lies to the Court of Appeal. Similarly, if there is a judicial review to the High Court in respect of a lower court decision, there was an appeal to the Supreme Court.
Formerly the courts held there was a direct right of appeal from the Central Criminal Court to the Supreme Court as well as to the Court of Appeal. This anomaly was abolished in 1993. It arose because the Central Criminal Court is technically the High Court so that the constitutional right of appeal was held to apply and had not been explicitly precluded.
Appeal CA to SC
There is generally no appeal from a decision of the Court of Appeal There is an appeal to the Supreme Court, if that court or the Attorney General or DPP certifies that the decision involves a point of law of exceptional public importance and that it is desirable in the public interest that the person take an appeal to the Supreme Court.
The Attorney General or DPP may in relation to an appeal, and without prejudice to the decision in favour of the accused, appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, if it involves a point of exceptional public importance and the appeal is desirable in the public interest.
In case of the latter appeal, Counsel may appear on behalf of the accused to do so wishes or by a Counsel so assigned if the accused waives his right to be represented or heard.
Case Stated in Circuit Court
A Circuit Court judge may on the application of the parties in any matter, other than certain appeals by a rehearing, may refer matters of law to the Court of Appeal for by way of case stated. The Court gives a decision on the point referred.
Where a person has been acquitted on indictment, the Attorney General or DPP may without prejudice to the verdict refer a question of law to the Court of Appeal for determination. The question is settled by the Attorney General or DPP after consultation with the trial judge concerned as appropriate.
The Court of Appeal hears arguments by the DPP, the acquitted person if he wishes to be heard or assigned counsel. The acquitted person’s name may be kept anonymous unless he agrees to the use of his name.