Court of Criminal Appeal

Court of Criminal Appeal

The Court of Criminal Appeal emerged as a significant development in the English legal system through the enactment of the Criminal Appeal Act 1907 (7 Edw. 7. c. 23). This court superseded the Court for Crown Cases Reserved, which had limited jurisdiction, primarily focusing on points of law with discretionary referrals. The push for a more robust appeal mechanism gained momentum, particularly after controversial convictions such as those of Adolf Beck and George Edalji. The concessions led to the establishment of a new court capable of addressing matters of law, fact, or a combination of both.

The Court of Criminal Appeal comprised judges, including those who had initially opposed such an appeal court. Despite the initial skepticism, the court played a crucial role in curbing prosecutorial excesses. From 1909 to 1912, it handled numerous applications for leave to appeal, granting a substantial percentage. Notably, it quashed convictions and varied sentences, demonstrating its commitment to justice.

The court's rulings had a transformative effect on criminal proceedings. It addressed issues such as the simultaneous trial of multiple defendants, limitations on introducing additional evidence post-prosecution, and practices related to a defendant's criminal record. The court scrutinised trial judges' roles in fact-finding and challenged the requirement for the defence to proceed in the absence of a sufficient prima facie case. The court also played a pivotal role in refining and systematising the law of evidence, contributing to the evolution of legal practices and safeguards.

On October 1, 1966, the Court of Criminal Appeal underwent a significant transition. It was superseded by the Criminal Division of the Court of Appeal of England and Wales, marking a new phase in the appellate structure for criminal cases. Historically, the Court of Criminal Appeal stood as a key milestone in the evolution of the English criminal justice system, addressing concerns and shaping legal practices for the betterment of justice.
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