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If you are convicted by a court and you later find out that your defence counsel was dealing with a serious illness at the time, could this be grounds for an appeal? This question was recently put to the Court of Appeal, and the answer was a resounding no.
The facts of the case
In this case, the defendant was found guilty, after which he discovered that his leading defence counsel was suffering from a serious illness at the time of the trial. He submitted an appeal, claiming that the presence of that serious illness could have resulted in an unfair trial.
So, what did the Court of Appeal decide? Can the poor health of your defence counsel be used as a ground for appeal?
The short answer is: no.
What did the Court of Appeal say?
The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal, stating:
“The question for this Court is not whether counsel was unwell during the whole or any part of a trial, but whether the conduct of the defendant’s case, for whatever reason, fell below the proper standard so that the defendant did not receive a fair trial. Nothing has been placed before us either by way of evidence or submission which causes us to believe or suspect that this Appellant’s case may have been conducted incompetently or that leading counsel’s illness may in any way have interfered with the fairness of his trial.”
The Court of Appeal was also asked whether counsel should tell their client if he/she is feeling unwell. However, the Court of Appeal refused to provide such guidance, saying that “such matters are best left to the professional bodies which represent advocates and to the common-sense of individual practitioners.”
Do you have grounds for appeal?
What we learn from this case is that illness in itself cannot give rise to an appeal. Rather, the test for the court is whether the conviction is safe or not. There are various reasons why your conviction might not be safe, such as juror bias or the use of inadmissible evidence.
If you have been convicted and you want to discuss a possible appeal, contact us at Ashmans Solicitors. Call us on 0333 009 6275. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.