High Court rules cases referred to Crown Court by CCRC following guilty plea should proceed to appeal

Tuesday 8 August 2023

Jennifer Twite of the Garden Court Crime Team successfully represented the first interested party alongside Stephen Knight of 1 Pump Court, led by Francis Fitzgibbon KC of 23 Essex Street.

Jennifer was instructed by Karolina Rychlicka of Just for Kids Law.

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The first interested party is a young man who has finally overturned his conviction in the Youth Court, where he pleaded guilty when he was 15 years old. 

There is no right of appeal against conviction from a youth court where the defendant pleads guilty, even in cases like this one, where the child was incorrectly advised about the defences available to him, and where it may not have been in the interests of justice to prosecute him and therefore an abuse of process to try him.

He, therefore, submitted an appeal to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) for his convictions to be sent to the Crown Court for an appeal. The CCRC referred his case back to the Crown Court after five years.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) argued that the young man should have to apply to vacate his earlier guilty plea at the Youth Court before the Crown Court could proceed to hear his appeal, following the referral by the CCRC. This would have resulted in him going through another difficult legal process.

In 2022, Jennifer Twite successfully challenged the CPS's argument in Preston Crown Court. The Judge ruled that his case should be listed for an appeal before the Crown Court, and declined to remit the case back to the Magistrates Court. 

Following this judgment, the CPS judicially reviewed the Crown Court – making the young man an interested party. The case was then listed before the High Court, with the CCRC also an interested party.

The High Court case, heard in June 2023, revealed the uncertainty and varying practice surrounding how Crown Court appeals should work when the CCRC sends them back. 

However, the latest judgment clearly indicates that the correct procedure for any case referred back by the CCRC is to proceed straight to an appeal without any further procedural hurdles, thus finding in favour of the first interested party. This should make it more straightforward in future appeals for miscarriages of justice to be overturned.   

Following the appeal, the CPS confirmed that they will not resist the appeal, and therefore, after seven years of litigation, this young man will finally have his good character restored.  

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