The following is a short summary of the appeal process in criminal cases. It is not a comprehensive review of all available appeals, but covers the most common types.
The Court system in Victoria is a three tier system – Magistrates, County, and Supreme Court.
The Magistrates Court (or local court) handles summary and smaller civil matters.
An appeal from the Magistrates’ Court is heard in the County Court. Within 28 days of the decision, an accused can lodge an appeal against being found guilty (an appeal against conviction) or an appeal against sentence. These appeals are fresh or new hearings of the case where all of the evidence is heard by a County Court Judge who is not bound in any way by the decision in the Magistrates’ Court.
Most criminal trials for less serious criminal offences, and most civil matters below a threshold of usually around $1 million, are handled by the County Court. The Supreme Court of Victoria is at the top of the hierarchy, with unlimited jurisdiction within the state.
An appeal from the County Court or from the Supreme Court is heard in the Court of Appeal in the Supreme Court. Again, it can be an appeal against conviction or against sentence, and is to be lodged within 28 days of the decision. However, it is not a rehearing of the case. It is not a retrial.
These appeals are based on whether the law was properly applied in the Court below – was there an error of law which led to the conviction, or to the sentence being excessive? As to sentence, the appellant may also argue that the sentence was manifestly excessive (eg they received too much gaol time).
These appeals rarely involve the hearing of evidence. They are done “on the papers”. All County and Supreme Court cases are transcribed and the appeals are based on those transcripts.
Each of these courts has a different appeal process, but typically appeals are made to the County or Supreme Courts.
There is nothing cut and dried about an appeal process, and ensuring you have a Specialist Criminal Lawyer on your side is imperative. Due to a lack of Judges and resources, the appeal process is a slow one and one that should be undertaken with the utmost care and detail. If you’re looking for a Specialist Criminal Lawyer in Melbourne to help with a sentencing appeal, contact us today.