Wrongfully Convicted – Appeals to the Court of Criminal Appeal

If you believe you have been wrongfully convicted in the District Court or the Supreme Court you may be able to appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeal against the verdict. Conviction appeals and sentence appeals are legally complex. It is necessary to seek advice from an experienced appeal lawyer. Woolf Associates Solicitors has expertise in appeals against convictions and sentences.

Common grounds in an appeal against a jury verdict

There are a number of factors that can be relied upon in a conviction appeal including:

  1. That the verdict was unreasonable or cannot be supported having regard to the evidence.

It is well established by the case of M v The Queen (1994) 181 CLR 487 that the question for the appeal court “must always be whether the court thinks that upon the whole of the evidence it was open to the jury to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the accused was guilty.” This principle was relied on by the High Court in Cardinal George Pell’s appeal. The High Court held that the jury ought to have entertained a doubt as to Cardinal Pell’s guilt, despite an assumption that the complainant’s evidence was credible and reliable.

  1. Improperly admitted or rejected evidence.

A judge is bound by the law of evidence. A judge may make an error in applying the law of evidence for example by:

  • Failing to exclude an accused’s admission that has been influenced by violent, oppressive, inhuman or degrading conduct, or an admission that has been obtained unlawfully, or an admission that is unreliable because of the circumstances in which the admission was made.
  • Failing to exclude inadmissible hearsay evidence.
  • Allowing an expert to give evidence that is outside his or her area of expertise.
  1. The judge did not direct the jury properly

At the end of the presentation of evidence at a jury trial, the judge directs the jury. These directions guide the jury to decide the case according to law. Some common directions include:

  • A direction, in certain circumstances, that if the Crown case relies upon a single witness then the jury must exercise caution and scrutinise with great care the evidence of that witness (Murray direction)
  • A direction that the accused is disadvantaged by a delay in bringing proceedings.
  • A direction that identification evidence must be approached with special caution.
  • A direction on the law of a legal defence that has been properly raised by the accused (for example self-defence or a claim of right).

A failure to properly direct a jury can cause a trial to miscarry and can be relied upon as a ground on appeal.

Woolf Associates Solicitors has experience in assessing the prospects of success of an appeal and works with Sydney’s leading appeal barristers.