District Court Appeals

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.

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 to  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 Stated

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 [Supreme Court] from the High Court determination.

Appeal to Court of Appeal

The appeal from the higher criminal courts, the Circuit Criminal Courts, Central Criminal Court and Special Criminal Court, is permitted where the trial judge gives certificate, on application made, giving leave to appeal.  Alternatively, the Court of Appeal may itself give leave to appeal.  It may hear the application for the leave to appeal as the appeal itself.

The Court of Appeal does not rehear the case. It bases its decision on the transcript and other materials. 2009 Act  removes the requirement for a certificate from the judge and allow a right of appeal

The Court of Appeal may affirm a conviction, reverse it, or vary it.  It may reduce or increase sentence. The Court of Appeal does not rehear the case.

Orders by Court of Appeal

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.

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 ae 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.

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.

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.

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.

The Constitution provides that with such exceptions and subject such regulations as may prescribed by law, it  shall have appellate jurisdiction from decisions of the High Court and such other courts as may be prescribed by law.

There is an appeal from the Court of Appeal on a point of law to the Supreme Court.  There is provision for a case stated from the Circuit Court analogous to that in respect of the District Court directly to the Supreme Court.

An appeal against refusal of bail by the High Court on a Habeas Corpus application lies to the Supreme Court.  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.


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