The Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) heard appeals against conviction and sentence more quickly last year than in previous years according to the Court’s annual report published today (Tuesday 11 December).
In the legal year October 2011 – September 2012 the average time of cases disposed of by the Court over the previous 12 months was 7.8 months for conviction cases where leave to appeal was granted or the case referred to the full Court (compared with 9.3 months in 2010/11) and 4.5 months for sentence cases (compared with 4.6 months in 2010/11).
Statistics published in the report show:
- A six per cent increase in the total number of applications compared with the previous year (7,442 in 2011/12 compared with 6,972 in 2010/11).
- The Court received 5,711 applications to appeal sentences (compared with 5,481 in 2010/11) and 1,731 applications to appeal convictions (compared with 1,491 in 2010/11).
- Almost 73% of conviction applications considered during the year were refused by a single judge. Sixty five per cent of sentence applications were refused by a single judge.
- The Court heard 377 full conviction appeals (compared with 535 the previous year) and 2,001 full sentence appeals (compared with 2,004 the previous year). In addition it dealt with 1,341 applications for leave to appeal conviction (compared with 1,251 the previous year) and 4,469 applications for leave to appeal sentence (compared with 4,039 the previous year).
- On average (taken over a three year period) 11% of conviction applications and 25% of sentence applications received are successful.
The Attorney General referred 98 potentially unduly lenient sentences pursuant to section 36 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 (compared with 102 cases in 2010/11). Of those cases dealt with by the full Court, 73 resulted in an increase in sentence.
The Court also received 97 confiscation cases (compared to 102 cases in 2010/11). It also received 33 prosecution appeals under section 58 Criminal Justice Act 2003 (compared to 28 in 2010/11); one application under part 10 Criminal Justice Act 2003 for retrial for serious offences (‘double jeopardy’) and nine interlocutory applications (compared to 16 in 2010/11).
The Court has continued to make use of advances in technology to improve the efficiency of its work and reduce costs. The implementation of digital recording equipment in the Crown Courts enables a faster transcription service for all court users at a reduced cost. The Court has also increased its use of video-link facilities, with 128 successful video-links to prisons last year. This reduces security risks and the cost of transferring appellants between prisons. Video-links have also been used to enable counsel to appear from a remote location and two international links enabled witnesses to give evidence.
An important role of the Court is to provide guidance to the lower courts on issues arising from procedure, evidence and new legislation. The report highlights a number of significant judgments that do this:
- Riat & Others – this judgment on hearsay evidence stated that a Crown Court judge does not need ordinarily to concern himself with close analysis of the relationship between the Supreme Court in Horncastle and that of the ECHR in Al-Khawaja & Tahery and should generally look no further than the Criminal Justice Act 2003 and Horncastle.
- Clinton & Others – this judgment enabled the Court to give guidance in relation to the new ‘loss of control’ defence created by the Coroners & Justice Act 2009, and which replaced the common law defence of ‘provocation’.
- Blackshaw & Others – this judgment enabled the Court to give sentencing guidance to judges dealing with offences committed during the riots and public disorder in August 2011.
- Joof & Others – following a lengthy investigation by the Criminal Cases Review Commission, it was found that the prosecution had withheld material regarding police misconduct in the witness handling arrangements for the protected witness. As a result of this serious case of non-disclosure the Court allowed these appeals against murder convictions. The prosecution did not seek a retrial.
- H and Others – the Court considered eight sentence appeals where the appellants had all committed sexual offences between 25 and 40 years ago. The Court set out principles for sentencing defendants in these cases.
Repeating last year’s warning over jury irregularities, Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice, said in his forward to the report:
“The Court continues to be concerned by the long and short term issue of the way in which modern technology will impinge on trial by jury. There have been an increasing number of cases in which grounds of appeal against conviction have featured allegations of jury impropriety relating to the misuse of technology. This is a matter that will require close attention over the coming year to ensure the continuing integrity of the jury system.
“… the Court is deeply indebted to the Criminal Cases Review for all aspects of their assistance, not least the way in which they carry out investigations into allegations of jury misconduct.”
The Lord Chief Justice also praised the work of the Court’s staff and the assistance they provide the judiciary.