A review of the jurisprudence of the court of criminal appeal 2002-2004: principles and general themes

AuthorJ. Paul Mccutcheon - Laraine Hanlon
PositionSchool of Law, University of Limerick
The Court of Criminal Appeal (CCA) plays a crucial role in
shaping criminal law, criminal procedure and sentencing. The
significance of its judgments reaches beyond the courts over which it
exercises appellate jurisdiction. In this context, the rulings of the
Court on the interpretation of the law and on the principles, policies
and methodology of sentencing are as relevant to the District Court
as they are to the courts that try indictable offences. In turn, District
Judges can properly expect guidance on these matters from the
jurisprudence of the CCA.
This paper reviews judgments delivered by the CCA between
1January 2002 and 31 July 2004. The purpose of the survey is to
sketch the general themes in the case law and to identify the
principles invoked by the Court. The subject matter of this review is
the documented decisions of the CCA in the relevant period,
consisting of reserved judgments, approved ex tempore judgments
and unapproved ex tempore judgments.1The first two categories of
judgment may be cited in courtand accordingly they enjoy the
authority that is attributed to decisions of the CCA. In general,
unapproved ex tempore judgments are not cited and they lack any
real weight as precedents. Moreover,the manner in which such
judgments arerecorded is often uneven and hence they are not
especially reliable. Nevertheless, for several reasons, it is useful to
A Review of the Jurisprudence of the Court of
Criminal Appeal 2002-2004:
Principles and General Themes
*School of Law, University of Limerick. The authors were facilitated with access to the Office
of the Courtof Criminal Appeal. They wish to express their gratitude to Ms Geraldine
Manners, Registrar of the Court of Criminal Appeal, and her staff for their support and
unfailing courtesy. A version of this paper was delivered to the National Judicial Conference
in November 2004. The authors are grateful for the comments and suggestions made by
members of the judiciary.Any errors are exclusively those of the authors.
1Judgments that were not recorded in written form were not considered. The reasons for
undocumented judgments include faulty audio recording of hearings, delays in the receipt of
written judgments and judgments missing from the files.
include the unapproved judgments in this review.2First, those
judgments form a significant portion of the output of the Court.
Second, such judgments provide evidence of the general trends in the
jurisprudence. Third, occasionally an unapproved judgment may
contain a novel point or judicial pronouncement. In any event, a
more complete picture of the work of the Court is provided when the
full corpus of available judgments is considered.
The current study reviewed 446 judgments, of which 174
were delivered in 2002, 168 in 2003 and 104 between 1 January and
31 July 2004.3Reserved judgments were delivered in 82 cases, while
131 approved ex tempore judgments and 233 unapproved ex
tempore judgments werehanded down in the review period. Appeals
against conviction and appeals against sentence accounted for the
majority of cases. Other cases that were dealt with by the Court
include appeals by the Director of Public Prosecutions against
leniency of sentence, bail applications and applications for section
29 certificates account. Table 1 sets out the details of the judgments
that have been reviewed.
214 [5:1Judicial Studies Institute Journal
2Unapproved ex tempore judgments are identified in this paper in the following manner:
People (DPP) v Kelly 21 March 2002 (ex temp).
3The data presented by the authors in this paper (the UL data) differs from that provided by
the Court of Criminal Appeal office (the CCA data). The CCA data discloses that 556 cases
were disposed of in 2002 and 2003 (figures for 2004 are currently unavailable): of those cases
226 are recorded as having been abandoned, leaving a total of 330 cases. The UL total for the
same period is 342 cases. In the main, the CCA data records inputs (cases initiated) while the
UL data reflects outputs (judgments delivered). The principal methodological differences are:
(i) CCA practice is to count each applicant/appellant once irrespective of the number of
hearings involved in his/her case; the UL data counts each judgment delivered. It is conceivable
that four judgments might be delivered in relation to one set of proceedings: the CCA data will
recordone case while the UL data will record four judgments. (ii) DPP appeals and miscarriage
of justice cases areincluded in the UL data but areexcluded from the CCA data.
Table 1: Judgments of Court of Criminal Appeal Jan 2002-July
Appeals against conviction, appeals against sentence, appeals
against both conviction and sentence and DPP appeals accounted for
381 cases. The outcomes of those appeals arelisted in Table 2. In all,
just shortof half of all appeals weresuccessful: appeals were allowed
in 47% of the cases reviewed and rejected in 50% of such cases.
A Review of the Jurisprudence of the Court of
Criminal Appeal 2002-2004:
Principles and General Themes
2002 2003 Jan-July Total
Appeal against 45 (26%) 31 (18%) 30 (28%) 106 (24%)
Appeal against 77 (44%) 89 (53%) 36 (34%) 202 (45%)
Appeal against 5 (3%) 11 (7%) 8 (8.5%) 24 (5%)
conviction and
DPP appeal: 18 (10.5%) 17 (10%) 14 (13%) 49 (11%)
leniency of
Activated 1 (0.5%) 1 (0.5%) 1 (1%) 3 (0.75%)
Suspension of 1 (0.5%) - - - - 1 (0.25%)
balance sentence
Suspension of 1 (0.5%) - - - - 1 (0.25%)
Restoration of - - 1 (0.5%) - - 1 (0.25%)
Section 29 9 (5%) 4 (2%) 7 (7.5%) 20 (4.5%)
Section 9 2 (1%) - - - - 2 (0.5%)
New evidence - - - - 2 (2%) 2 (0.5%)
Bail application 15 (9%) 9 (5%) 4 (4%) 28 (6.25%)
pending appeal
Variation of bail - - 1 (1%) - - 1 (0.25%)
To amend on - - 1 (0.5%) - - 1 (0.25%)
grounds of appeal
Disclosure - - 1 (0.5%) - - 1 (0.25%)
Copy/transcript - - 1 (0.5%) - - 1 (0.25%)
Application for - - - - 1 (1%) 1 (0.25%)
legal aid
Application for - - - - 1 (1%) 1 (0.25%)
Omitted from - - 1 (0.5%) - - 1 (0.25%)
Total 174 168 107 446

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