Legal Eagle : Appealing your criminal conviction

April 24, 2017
Members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force band performing during the opening of the Easter session of the Supreme Court in downtown Kingston last Wednesday.

Many Jamaicans are convicted and sentenced in criminal trials every week in the several courts in Jamaica. Many of these persons are not represented by lawyers in these trials, notwithstanding the provisions in the Legal Aid Act, which allow for counsel to be assigned to assist these persons.

Many of the persons convicted and sentenced may not even be aware that they have a right of appeal.

In Jamaica, convictions and sentences are usually done in the Petty Sessions Court, the Parish Court, Gun Court, Circuit Courts, among other courts.

The right of appeal from the Petty Sessions Court is by virtue of Section 3 of the Justice of the Peace (Appeals) Act, which provides that any person aggrieved or affected by any judgment of any justice exercising summary jurisdiction, may appeal to a judge of the Supreme Court.

 

ORAL NOTICE

 

With respect to the Parish Court, a person who wishes to appeal conviction or sentence by a Parish Court judge may do so by giving oral notice of appeal during the sitting of the court at which the person was convicted, or file with the Clerk written notice of his intention to appeal within 14 days of his conviction or sentence. Thereafter, the appellant is required to file grounds of appeal within 21 days from the day of sentence. The Parish Court judge would thereafter prepare transcript of note and reason for judgment and send them to the Court of Appeal.

Similar procedure would apply for matters in the Traffic Court and any other specialised criminal jurisdiction at the Parish Court level.

A person who wishes to appeal a conviction or sentence in the Supreme Court [Gun Court, Circuit Courts and other courts at the Supreme Court jurisdiction] may file with the registrar of the Court of Appeal a Notice of Appeal in Form B1 or a Notice of Application for Permission to Appeal.

The Notice of Appeal must provide information such as the date of conviction, date of sentence, the sentence, grounds of appeal, among other things.

The general rule is that the appellant or applicant must sign the Notice of Appeal but where the appellant or applicant is unable to write, he may affix his mark to the said notice in the presence of a witness. In cases where the appellant contends that he is insane and, as such, advanced a defence of insanity in that he was not responsible in law for his action, the appellant's lawyer may sign the notice.

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