At the end of a criminal court case, the court will decide:

  • whether the accused person is guilty or not guilty.
  • the penalty (or sentence) if the accused person is found guilty.

It is important to understand that if the accused person if found guilty, this is not always the end of the justice process. There can be an appeal.

An appeal is when the court is asked to reconsider a guilty decision or the penalty that was given.

An appeal is when the court is asked to reconsider a guilty decision or the penalty that was given in a criminal court case.

Victims and witnesses who need to give evidence will be told if an appeal is made. You will receive a summons or subpoena.

An appeal by the offender

If an accused person is found guilty, they are then called the offender.

The offender can appeal:

  • the verdict (being found guilty)
  • the penalty or sentence they were given.

Generally, the offender has 28 days from the date they were given the sentence to make an appeal. Sometimes they may have extra time if there are special circumstances.

An appeal by police or the Office of Public Prosecutions

The police or the Office of Public Prosecutions can appeal if they think:

  • the penalty was too low for the crime
  • the penalty was not legally correct.

What happens in an appeal?

The appeal happens in a higher level of court than the decision was made in.

In some cases, the offender may apply for bail. If this is granted, they will be released from prison until the appeal is heard.

 

For cases heard in the Magistrates’ Court

If the case was decided in the Magistrates’ Court (External link), the appeal will be heard in the County Court (External link).

A County Court judge will listen to the whole case again. There is no jury.  If you were a witness in the first court case, you may need to give evidence again. The police will let you know if you need to do this and you will receive a summons or subpoena.

The judge may decide:

  • that there should be no change to the guilty verdict and sentence
  • to increase or decrease the offender’s sentence
  • to acquit the offender, which means to find them not guilty.
 

For cases heard in the County or Supreme Court

The appeal hearing may be heard in:

The appeal hearing is not a retrial. Instead the court considers whether the law was applied properly during the trial.

Victims and witnesses do not need to give evidence again at these appeal hearings. The evidence you gave during the trial may be considered.

The Court may decide:

  • to dismiss the appeal, which means that there will be no change to the guilty verdict and sentence
  • to increase or decrease the offender’s sentence
  • to order a retrial
  • to set aside the conviction, which means the offender would go free.

If there is a retrial, you may need to give evidence again. The Office of Public Prosecutions will let you know and you will receive a subpoena.

What does an appeal mean for victims and witnesses?

If a case is appealed the Office of Public Prosecutions or the police officer in charge of prosecuting the case (sometimes called the police informant) will let you know.

It can be frustrating for victims and witnesses if a case is appealed, but it is a normal and important part of the justice process.

If an appeal happens, support is available to help you get ready to go to court and provide advice and information:

  • the Victims and Witness Assistance Program can assist victims and witnesses in cases handled by the Office of Public Prosecutions. Call on 1800 641 927

  • the Victims of Crime Helpline can provide support, information and advice. Call on 1800 819 817.