Appeals Against Conviction
It may be possible once convicted to seek to appeal against that conviction. Often persons convicted wish to seek an opinion from a different solicitor than the one who represented them at trial. We undertake this work both on a privately funded basis and under the advice and assistance scheme where applicable. The latter scheme is strictly means tested and sometimes even those in custody serving a prison sentence do not qualify for such legal aid.
We try to limit the amount of such work we undertake at any one time in order that we can deal with those clients as efficiently as possible. This means that we try to concentrate on the most serious cases and on those where the client remains serving a sentence of imprisonment.
This work is often time consuming and involves a forensic dissection of what the client believes went wrong at trial. In some cases, fresh evidence has come to light since conviction.
For those who have already appealed unsuccessfully but where fresh evidence has arisen, we make an application to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC). The CCRC can consider the representations and, if satisfied that there is a real possibility that the conviction would be considered unsafe, can refer the case back to the Court of Appeal. The CCRC refers only a very small percentage of the cases it considers.
Martyn Fisher is head of the appeal department and a reasonable amount of Steven Bird's caseload is appellate in nature. Other solicitors in the firm undertake appellate cases including Philippa Southwell who deals mainly with victims of human trafficking, James Nicholls, Jeremy Nicholls and Martyn Fisher.
Cases are very often referred to us by barristers, organisations such as the Howard League for Penal Reform or the NSPCC and, on occasion, we are asked by the Court of Appeal itself to assist in cases where no solicitor has been involved in the case but one is subsequently required.
As an example of some of our previous appellate cases which have been referred back to the Court of Appeal by the CCRC:-
- A woman who had been convicted of incest and aiding and abetting buggery of her own children in 1991 had her case referred to the Court of Appeal in 2003 following our application in 1998. The witnesses at her trial had subsequently claimed to have been unduly influenced in their allegations and evidence by social workers. Her conviction was overturned in 2005 and she has now successfully applied for compensation from the Home Office.
- A man who was convicted of the murder of the baby his then partner. We made an application to the CCRC who referred the case back to the Court of Appeal in 2003. The issues related to the timing of death from forensic evidence. Unfortunately the Court of Appeal upheld the conviction in 2005.
- A man who was convicted in 2000 of indecently assaulting his daughter. We made an application to the CCRC in 2002 based on the court having heard inadmissible evidence of a previous allegation. The CCRC referred the case back to the Court of Appeal in 2007 and the appeal was successful.
- A man convicted of money laundering. His case was referred back to the Court of Appeal in 2006 following our representations based on a development in the law since his trial (at which we acted for him). The case was referred and the Customs sought to judicially review that decision but the conviction was ultimately overturned in 2007 and our client was granted a re-trial.
- A man convicted of burglary on the strength of evidence of an ear print said to relate to him. This matter was returned to the Court of Appeal by the CCRC after our successful application. The final hearing took place in April 2008 and the conviction based on the ear print evidence was overturned. Unfortunately the Court of Appeal did not overturn his conviction on some related counts and his sentence remained unchanged.
- A man convicted of raping his disabled niece. This conviction was overturned and the client was successfully acquitted at re-trial.