Sentences and appeals
After the trials, the judge can either choose to pass a sentence immediately after the jury has given their verdict, or can choose to have a separate hearing for the sentence. However, people can choose to appeal either decision – either the verdict, or the sentence, based on whether they feel the sentence is too harsh, or the conviction is false.
More often than not, a separate trial will be heard for sentencing – this gives the judge time to work with the probation service to determine the best sentence.
However, the sentencing trial goes far beyond deciding how many months/years the defendant must spend in prison. A variety of alternative sentences are available, and the judge can decide to pass a hospital order – where the defendant must spend a specified amount of time in the hospital, which can help provide rehabilitative treatment, or restraining orders, specific restrictions, a fine, community service, or even a ‘suspended sentence’.
A suspended sentence is when the judge passes a specified time – say, 16 months, but is ‘suspended’ for 24. This means if the defendant can stay out of trouble for 24 months, then they’re free to go. But, if they get arrested again (for any reason) within this time, they are sent to prison to serve their sentence. Think of it like a second chance.
There is one final avenue for those who feel like they have been wronged by the judge, either in terms of the sentence passed or of the conviction itself. After the trial is over, your lawyers will tell you if there’s a positive or negative chance of appealing the judge’s decision. If it’s positive, they’ll help you with the appeal process. However, if they think there’s a low probability that your appeal is successful, they’ll recommend against it – and even withdraw as your legal counsel if you want to appeal and recommend working with another lawyer instead.
In the Crown Court, an appeal will be heard by the Court of Appeal Criminal Division, and the defendant’s legal counsel will present the appeal case to the judges. If one is appealing their conviction, then the prosecution will present counterevidence. If one is appealing their sentence, then there is no counterevidence presented.
If the appeal is won, the judge will reduce the sentence. If the appeal is lost, the original sentence stands, but you might have to restart your sentence from the beginning or pay court costs.
In a nutshell, the UK criminal trial process is lengthy and goes through multiple rounds of trials, with fail-safes built into the system at every level. This is because the justice system upholds the principle of “presumed innocent until proven guilty”, and the proof must be beyond a reasonable doubt. This is why there are several rounds – to guarantee someone’s guilt, it must consistently be proven, in front of the police, the magistrates, and a jury.
Article written and contributed by: Stuart Miller Solicitors
DISCLAIMER: This article should not be regarded as constituting legal advice in relation to particular circumstances, and is merely a general comment on the relevant topic. If specific advice is required in connection with any of the matters covered in this article, get in touch with Stuart Miller Solicitors direct