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Law Commission reviews criminal appeals process

Law Commission reviews criminal appeals process


The commission is seeking views on whether and how the law governing appeals for criminal cases should be reformed.  

The Law Commission of England and Wales published an issues paper on 27 July. As part of its review, it said it is "seeking views from criminal law practitioners and those with experience of the criminal appeals process to identify problems with the current law that may be preventing the effective delivery of justice."

Responses can be submitted to the commission until 31 October 2023.

In a press release, the commission said:

"In recent years, there have been worries about the piecemeal way in which the law governing criminal appeals has developed. Several bodies – including the Justice Select Committee and the Westminster Commission on Miscarriages of Justice – have argued that there is a need for reform. There have been calls to review various aspects of the law governing appeals, such as whether the tests used to grant an appeal are just, and whether current arrangements enable the effective use of court resources."

Commenting on the issues paper, Professor Penney Lewis, Criminal Law Commissioner said:“In our comprehensive review, we will consider proposals for reform that will ensure the appeals process provides a robust safeguard against wrongful convictions and instils confidence in the criminal justice system. We therefore welcome a wide range of responses to our issues paper to help us identify if there are areas of the law that are not working.”

 A spokesperson from the Criminal Appeals Lawyers Association (CALA), said: “This signifies an important opportunity to bring about a more just and equitable post-conviction legal landscape. We shall work with the Law Commission to strengthen the appeals system so that miscarriages of justice can be properly identified and rectified.”

Among the issues the commission discusses in its paper are:

  • Is there a need to reform the process for appealing decisions made in magistrates’ courts?
  • Are the powers of the Court of Appeal, the senior court that hears appeals in England and Wales, adequate and appropriate?
  • Do the tests used to grant an appeal make it too difficult to correct miscarriages of justice?
  • Are the Attorney General’s powers to refer cases to the Court of Appeal, where the sentence is 'unduly lenient' or a legal error has been made, adequate and appropriate?
  • Are appeals hampered by laws governing the retention and disclosure of evidence for a case and access to records of proceedings?

The commission says there will be further public consultation on the provisional proposals in that paper before the it publishes its final recommendations.