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SPEED UP THE CRIMINAL APPEAL PROCESS

Comment 12th July 2010

The current criminal appeal porcess can take months even years before an appeal can be heard at the Court of Appeal. The entire process should be speeded up and decisions made more quickly. Under the current system a person has 28 days in which to lodge an appeal against conviction, most however are done out of time.

The single biggest hurdle is the single judge stage, as most appeals fail at this stage. In some current cases, at least one decision I know of to come to the single judge stage took nine months, by which time the defendant had changed three prisons already. This is not my idea of a state looking to help the innocent or even looking serious about righting a wrong. It's just one small step in an extremely long and painful process which must be ended soon.

Why does this matter?

The idea is important not least because there are many innocent people in prison who have been wrongly convicted. Forget for a moment that fact that the cost of appealing is borne by the defendant who has just lost everything; on top of the wrong decision we have an appeal process which is sluggish at best and snail paced at worse. We are talking about people's lives, ruined by bad decsions in lower courts, only for the upper courts to dilly dally about what grounds a defendant has to appeal, most of the time, none. Having said that, faster decisions must not mean quicker reasons to say no. Each defendant should have the right to appeal through a solicitor and the cost included under legal aid. It is only right that the state should pay for the appeal when it is the state that has put you there in the first place.


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