The Magistrates Court of Queensland is the lower level of the Queensland Court system and sees many minor offences; hearing about 95% of court cases. Most of both criminal and civil actions are heard by the Magistrates Court. Magistrates Courts don’t have a jury like Supreme and District Courts. Instead, a magistrate rules over the proceedings, deciding penalties in criminal cases and determining payment or performance in civil matters.
Hundreds of cases per day are brought to Magistrates Courts throughout Queensland. With such high volume, it’s inevitable that some parties feel dissatisfied with the results. If you are one of these dissatisfied people, then you likely have the ability to appeal. Contact a lawyer as soon as possible to get advice about your ability to appeal.
Appealing Magistrates Court Decisions
When a sentence is unsatisfactory, Queensland law provides an opportunity for appeal. Some appeal because they find the sentence either too severe or too lenient, whereas other appeal because the conviction was not properly supported by the evidence.
If you pled guilty, you are only allowed to appeal the sentence imposed against you. However, if you pled not guilty and were convicted and sentenced after a hearing, you may be able to appeal either the conviction or the sentence or both. Seek legal advice as soon as possible so that you don’t miss an opportunity to appeal an unjust decision.
Who Can Appeal
Different parties may appeal a decision depending on what type of decision it is and whether the case is civil or criminal. However, victims of a crime, friends and family of the accused, and members of the public are not allowed to appeal regardless of the type of case it is.
There are usually strict deadlines for filing appeal, with the timeline starting on the date that the court delivers its decision. The type of decision being appealed will dictate how much time you have to file your appeal.
In a criminal case, the Notice of appeal must usually be filed within a month from the date of the decision, though you may be able to get an extension on your time to file. Time deadlines are crucial to the success or failure of your appeal so be sure to consult a lawyer, even if you intend to represent your own interests moving forward.
Grounds for an Appeal
On appeal, the Court will review each ground of appeal and determine whether or not the Magistrates Court was correct based on the attendant evidence. The grounds of appeal are your reasons for thinking the magistrate erred in his decision.
A recent case, Forrest v Commissioner of Police  QCA 132, outlined how a Court should review a case on appeal. Three main directives of the court were clearly stated:
1. On appeal, the Court must determine based on the evidence whether the offence in question had actually been committed;
2. The appellant is not required to demonstrate an error of fact or law and;
3. When an appeal is being heard by way of rehearing, the court must really review the evidence and make a new determination about the case.
Grounds of appeal should be demonstrated by evidence and can become quite complicated. Therefore, legal advice is indispensable when determining whether you have sufficient grounds for appeal, and what your chance of success would be if those grounds apply to your case.
Abandoning an Appeal
You are able to abandon your appeal by filing a Notice of discontinuance of appeal or application. However, be very certain of your decision because once you stop your appeal, the appeal is finalized and cannot be restarted except in very extraordinary circumstances. If you are considering abandoning and appeal, get legal advice before making a potentially irreversible decision.
Seek Legal Advice
Even if the Magistrates Court hands down a verdict you are less than happy with, you still have the opportunity to seek a more favorable result. However, the process for appealing a Magistrates Court decision can be a complicated and confusing process on a tight time schedule. A lawyer can provide insight to your grounds for appeal, help you organize your arguments, and present your case in court, so don’t hesitate if you have any questions.