Criminal appeals

The answers set out below provide general information only and should not be relied on without seeking legal advice for a particular case.

What are the types of criminal appeals?

There are several different types of criminal appeals that may be brought in higher courts.  These include appeals against:

  • a judge’s refusal to grant bail or name suppression;
  • specified pre-trial decisions by a judge before a trial is heard;
  • conviction; and
  • sentence.

Where are appeals filed?

The type of criminal appeal will determine where an appeal is filed.  For example, appeals against a District Court Judge’s decision are usually filed in the High Court.  Appeals against a High Court Judge’s decision are filed in the Court of Appeal.  Appeals against conviction and sentence following a jury trial in the District Court or the High Court are both filed in the Court of Appeal.  The Court of Appeal hears appeals in Auckland and Wellington.

When do appeals need to be filed?

In general, appeals are to be filed within 20 working days of the judge’s decision.  Appeals against conviction are to be filed within 20 working days after the date of sentence.   Working days are week days but do not include most public holidays and the period between 25 December and 15 January.  The appeal court may also extend the time to bring an appeal if the court considers that it is in the interests of justice.  In deciding whether to extend the time the appeal court will consider the merits of the appeal and reasons for the delay.

What are the grounds to bring an appeal against conviction?

The appeal court must be satisfied that a miscarriage of justice has occurred at the trial.  In broad terms, a miscarriage of justice includes anything that has gone wrong with the trial which created a real risk that it affected the outcome or has resulted in an unfair trial.  For example, a miscarriage of justice may occur if the trial Judge made an error of law on an important point when summing up to the jury or when considering his or her verdicts in a Judge alone trial.

In the case of a jury trial the appeal court must also allow the appeal if it is satisfied that the jury’s verdict was unreasonable based on the evidence.  However, an appeal court will not lightly interfere with a jury’s verdicts especially if the jury had to make assessments of the credibility or reliability of witnesses at the trial.  In the case of a Judge alone trial the appeal court must also allow the appeal if the Judge erred in his or her assessment of the evidence to such an extent that a miscarriage of justice has occurred.

What are the grounds to bring an appeal against sentence?

The appeal court must allow an appeal if it is satisfied there is an error in the sentence and a different sentence should be imposed.  If the appeal is brought based on the length of the sentence then the appeal court will generally need to be satisfied that it was clearly excessive.