Time limit for appeal from a magistrates’ court to the Crown Court Under section 108 of the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980a defendant may appeal to the Crown Court against conviction or sentence in a magistrates’ court. On an appeal against conviction the Crown Court tries the defendant again and may acquit or convict. On an appeal against sentence the Crown Court passes a fresh sentence, which may be less or more severe. At present the time limit for an appeal against conviction is 15 business days from the date of sentence or from the date on which sentence is deferred (if it is) under sections 4 and 5 of the Sentencing Act2020,whichever is earlier. Under sections 14 to 17 of the Sentencing Act 2020a magistrates’ court can commit a convicted defendant to the Crown Court for sentencing instead of passing or deferring sentence itself.Under rule 34.2of the Criminal Procedure Rules if a defendant is convicted by a magistrates’ court and committed for sentence to the Crown Court then at present the time limit for appeal against the conviction does not start until the defendant has been sentenced in the Crown Court. That may postpone the appeal unnecessarily.It may result in what turns out to be an unnecessary sentencing in the Crown Court(because the defendant then is acquitted on appeal). In some circumstances it may affect the sentencing powers of the Crown Court on the appeal if the appeal fails.In practice, the Crown Court usually can avoid these potential difficulties by postponing its decision on the committal for sentence until after the appeal against conviction,but only if the defendant decides not to wait until after the sentencing before starting the appeal. The Rule Committee heard from Crown Court judges that it would be more efficient, and fairer both to defendants and witnesses, if the time limit for appeal against conviction were to run from the date of committal for sentence to the Crown Court, where that happens. The Committee agreed and has changed the time limit in the rule.
I will not be surprised if the current three calendar weeks time limit on appeals direct from magistrates to crown court is reduced by a third. The whole underlying philosophy of the MOJ over the last decade is to salami slice an individual`s ability to be able to oppose the state`s decisions and requirements from magistrates courts to the Supreme Court; i.e. from those who interpret the law to those who make the law. With regard to the second proposed change above I do not think that all criminal defence lawyers will be happy and for LIPs it will be just another area where they will be floundering in a sea of uncertainty. The full GUIDE TO THE CRIMINAL PROCEDURE (AMENDMENT NO. 2) RULES 2021 is available here.
Rarely if ever do authoritarian governments appear like a bolt of lightening from above; they appear with stealth and cunning almost like an invisible cloud with only occasional flashes of intent in obscure areas of our society to predict their approach. I fear we are enveloped within that invisible cloud.