Court of Appeal of Singapore - Jurisdiction - Appellate Criminal Jurisdiction - Criminal Appeals

Criminal Appeals

The Court of Appeal only hears appeals from decisions of the High Court made when the latter is exercising original criminal jurisdiction. In other words, matters heard by the High Court on appeal from the Subordinate Courts cannot be further appealed to the Court of Appeal, though questions of law may be reserved for determination by the Court (see below). A person convicted in the High Court can appeal against the conviction, the sentence or both, unless he or she pleaded guilty in which case only an appeal against the extent or legality of the sentence is permitted. In the latter situation, the Court of Appeal may nonetheless permit the person who pleaded guilty to appeal against conviction if it believes that this is in the interests of justice. The Public Prosecutor may appeal against an acquittal or the sentence imposed on an accused person. The Court is entitled to summarily reject an appeal if the grounds of appeal do not involve any question of law, the conviction is supportable by the evidence, and there is nothing in the circumstances of the case which raises a reasonable doubt as to whether the conviction was right or leads the Court to think the sentence should be reduced. The summary rejection of an appeal may only be done upon the unanimous decision of the Judges of Appeal.

If it is of the view that additional evidence is required, the Court may either take this evidence itself or order the trial court to take it. The Court may also ask the trial court to give a report of any matter relating to the trial.

Following the hearing of an appeal, the Court may confirm, reverse or vary the trial court's decision. It may also order a retrial; inform the High Court of its opinion on a matter and send it back to that court for further proceedings to be taken; or make any other order as it thinks just, exercising any power that the trial court might have exercised. The Court also has power to quash the sentence passed by the trial court and substitute a more or less severe sentence in its place. A trial court's judgment, sentence or order may only be reversed or set aside if it was legally incorrect or against the weight of the evidence. A sentence may only be altered if it is manifestly excessive or inadequate in the circumstances of the case. Even if the Court feels that a point raised in an appeal might be decided in the appellant's favour, it may dismiss the appeal if it considers that no substantial miscarriage of justice took place. The Court generally only issues a single judgment, though separate judgments may be given if the presiding Judge of Appeal so directs.

In the 2009 decision Yong Vui Kong v. Public Prosecutor, the Court left open the issue of whether it had inherent jurisdiction following the conclusion of an appeal to reopen the matter if new evidence came to light. It expressed the view that "it would be in the interest of justice that the court should have the power to correct the mistake, rather than rely on the Executive to correct what is essentially an error in the judicial process", and that it is "reasonable to assume that the court is better placed to evaluate the merits of the new evidence than the Executive". In earlier cases the view had been taken that in the interests of finality, after delivering its judgment in an appeal the Court should be regarded as functus officio, that is, it has fully "performed its office" and no longer has any legal power to act. However, in Yong Vui Kong the Court said:

he finality principle should not be applied strictly in criminal cases where the life or liberty of the accused is at stake as it would subvert the true value of the judicial process, which is to ensure, as far as possible, that the guilty are convicted and the innocent are acquitted. The floodgates argument should not be allowed to wash away both the guilty and the innocent.

A possible argument, which had not yet been posed to the Court, was that Article 93 of the Constitution, which vests the judicial power of Singapore in the Supreme Court, conferred on the Court of Appeal the power to reopen concluded appeals. Although judicial power is only exercisable when the court has jurisdiction in a matter, "where the SCJA does not expressly state when its jurisdiction in a criminal appeal ends, there is no reason for this court to circumscribe its own jurisdiction to render itself incapable of correcting a miscarriage of justice at any time".

Read more about this topic:  Court Of Appeal Of Singapore, Jurisdiction, Appellate Criminal Jurisdiction

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