By Ravi Nanga
THIS article will examine the appeals process.
In the event a person has reason to file an action in court in order to pursue a remedy for a wrong that they have suffered, depending on the value of the claim, the matter will be heard and determined by either a magistrate or a judge of the High Court.
In the event a person commits a criminal offence, depending on the seriousness of the offence, he can either be tried by a magistrate or by a judge and jury in the High Court. Today however, where a criminal matter is heard in the High Court, the accused now has the option of a judge-alone trial, meaning that that matter will be heard by a judge alone, without a jury.
Whether a matter is a civil matter or a criminal matter or whether it is heard and determined by a magistrate or by a judge, in the event a person is not happy with the outcome, it is possible to appeal the decision to the Court of Appeal.
When the matter is first heard, the magistrate or the judge will hear the evidence that is placed before the court, determine who is telling the truth, apply the law and arrive at a decision. In the event the person against whom the decision is given is of the view that the magistrate or the judge was wrong, they can appeal to the Court of Appeal.
An appeal can be filed in the event the magistrate or judge made an error in law, in that they did not apply the law correctly and came to the wrong decision or in the event the magistrate or judge failed to assess the evidence properly, thereby coming to the wrong decision.
When an appeal is filed to the Court of Appeal, the person appealing is required to set out in detail why the magistrate’s or judge’s decision was wrong, giving particulars of where they say the magistrate or judge was wrong in law or in the assessment of the evidence.
Unlike the hearing before the magistrate or the judge, there will be no evidence being given in the Court of Appeal, except in limited circumstances where the evidence did not exist in the court below and where the Court of Appeal gives permission to rely on the new evidence.
The Court of Appeal will examine the documents that were filed in the court below as well as a transcript of the evidence that was given at the trial before the magistrate or the judge and determine whether the magistrate or the judge was wrong in the decision arrived at. In the Court of Appeal, an appeal is usually heard by three Justices of Appeal.
Where a person appeals and the Court of Appeal makes a decision that the person is also unhappy with, in certain circumstances the person can appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, which is located in London, England.
Whereas an appeal can be filed automatically in the Court of Appeal in most cases in respect of the decision of a magistrate or judge, in the event one needs to appeal to the Privy Council, permission must first be obtained from the Court of Appeal in order to appeal to the Privy Council. In the event the Court of Appeal refuses permission to appeal, it is possible to apply directly to the Privy Council in order to obtain permission to appeal.
Once an appeal is filed in the Privy Council, the procedure for the hearing of the appeal is very much the same as with the Court of Appeal. In this case however, five Law Lords will sit in order to hear the appeal from the Court of Appeal.
The Privy Council will examine the documents that was filed in the courts below, including the material that was used in the Court of Appeal, review the matter and decide whether the Court of Appeal was wrong or right. In the event the Privy Council is of the view that the Court of Appeal came to the wrong decision, they have the power to vary the order that was made by the Court of Appeal. An appeal to the Privy Council is a final appeal and there is no further appeal process after the Privy Council.
On the hearing of an appeal, whether in the Court of Appeal or the Privy Council, the respective appellate court can agree with the court below and dismiss the appeal, or they can allow the appeal and change the decision of the court below. Depending on the issues involved in the appeal, either the Court of Appeal or the Privy Council can order that the matter be re-heard afresh.
As can be seen, the journey to resolving legal issues that one may face may be a long process, that can finally be determined by the Privy Council.
Ravi Nanga is an attorney-at-law.
Please note that this article is intended only to provide general information on the topic being addressed and should not be taken as providing legal advice. In order to be properly advised it will be necessary for an attorney to examine the relevant documents and obtain the necessary instructions before properly advising as to rights and obligations.