Sexual Offences: Appeals Against Conviction or Sentence

September 1, 2016

Although our criminal justice system is considered one of the best in the world, it remains the case that wrongful convictions and miscarriages of justice can and do occur, especially in the context of allegations of sexual offences. These highly complex and difficult cases, where evidence is usually sparse and procedural rules can be overstretched in favour of complainants, can put the accused at a material disadvantage – a disadvantage that is only exacerbated in the absence of a sufficiently competent and robust defence. When there is a reasonable probability that such failings have resulted in a wrongful conviction or disproportionate sentence, it may be possible to ask the court to reconsider the decision by lodging an appeal.

The criminal appeal process is often long and arduous, particularly so in cases relating to allegations of sexual misconduct. It’s therefore vital to have the support of expert sexual offence defence lawyers when seeking to quash a conviction and/or reduce a sentence.

Here we provide a brief overview of criminal appeals in sexual offence cases. At Tuckers, our criminal defence lawyers have extensive experience in this area. Both Judges and Prosecutors alike have commended our skill and professionalism. We work tirelessly to ensure that the rights of our clients are defended every step of the way.

Criminal appeals are subject to tight deadlines, so it’s important to act quickly if you believe you or a family member have significant grounds for appealing a conviction and/or sentence. Our offices are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, ready to deliver expert legal advice and assistance. For more information, please contact our Special Casework Team as soon as possible: e-mail or contract Stuart Sutton on 07715-005953 or 07798-753720.

Appealing Sexual Offence Convictions or Sentencing in England & Wales

Under the law of England & Wales, as found in the Criminal Appeal Act 1968 (as amended by the Criminal Appeal Act 1995), it is possible to appeal against conviction, sentence or both if the conviction is unsafe. ‘Unsafe’ is interpreted very widely and can encompass many different circumstances that give rise to doubt about the safety of the conviction, for instance:

  • The police may have failed to conduct a proper investigation, to the extent that there is a real prospect that further enquiry will uncover something that may affect the safety of the conviction;
  • The prosecution may have suppressed material evidence or submitted evidence that should have been inadmissible;
  • Legal representation was inadequate, such as defence counsel failing to make proper disclosure, requests or objections;
  • A question of law was wrongly decided;
  • The trial judge made improper comments to the jury or was evidently biased; or,
  • New evidence comes to light post-conviction that cases doubt upon the safety of the conviction.

The above list isn’t exhaustive; it’s simply an indication of the many things that can present reasons justifying an appeal, ranging from procedural irregularity to incompetent legal representation.

Crucially, an appeal can only be made if permission is granted by the trial judge or Court of Appeal. This involves sending an appeal notice, within 28 days of being convicted (if appealing against conviction) or sentenced (if appealing against sentence), that details the reasons why the conviction is unsafe. If an appeal is being sent outside the time limits, the notice must also give reasons detailing why the form is being sent late and an extension of time should be granted. In some cases, such as where the complainant in a sexual offences case retracts their allegations, the prosecution is given the opportunity to provide a written response to the appeal notice, to help determine whether the appeal has any merit.

If permission to appeal is granted (also known as leave to appeal), the case then needs to be prepared for a hearing before the Criminal Division of the Court of Appeal. Amongst other things, this involves lodging a skeleton argument within 14 days of being granted leave to appeal, submitting a list of authorities supporting the grounds of appeal and, where relevant, seeking permission to admit new evidence that wasn’t adduced during the initial trial. The appeal will be heard at a fixed date at the Royal Court of Justice, usually in public, where expert counsel will put forward the appellant’s case against conviction and/or sentence.

If the appeal is allowed, then the Court may either quash the conviction or order a retrial. If the appeal is dismissed, then the decision is final, unless a point of law of general public importance is raised that justifies an appeal to the Supreme Court.

Our Approach to Criminal Appeals in Sexual Offences Cases

We apply the same thorough approach to criminal appeals as we do in initial proceedings – it’s based on extensive independent investigations, a deep analysis of all the material, and highly persuasive and professional communications to the court on our clients’ behalf, all aimed at casting doubt as to the safety of the conviction or suitability of the sentence. You can find out more about approach to defending against allegations of sexual misconduct here.

Appeal work is primarily concerned with demonstrating that the appellant’s conviction is unsafe. Often in sexual offences cases, this is because they haven’t received a fair trial, either because of procedural impropriety by the police or prosecution, or as a result of inadequate representation during the initial trial. Our specialist criminal appeals solicitors work tirelessly to identify such failings in order to reassert and enforce our clients’ rights.

Contact Our Specialist Sexual Offences Appeals Team Today

At Tuckers, our Specialist Casework Team is well-known for its criminal defence and appeals work. If you are considering appealing your own or a loved one’s sexual offences conviction or sentence, please contact us as soon as possible. Our offices are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, ready to deliver immediate and expert legal advice and representation. Please contact our Special Casework Team: e-mail, or contact Stuart Sutton on 07715005953 or 07798753720.