Friday, May 17, 2013

Giving reasons for dismissing appeals

The constitutional importance of reasons being given by an appellate court when it dismisses an appeal is emphasised in Laing v The Queen (Bermuda) [2013] UKPC 14 (14 May 2013):

"[14] ... All three members of the Board are well aware, from their own experience, of the pressures that are endemic to the criminal appeal courts. But the interests of justice must come first. Once again it must be stressed that an appellant has a constitutional right to be given the reasons for the court's decision if his appeal is dismissed. The more serious the offence of which he has been convicted and the more severe the sentence that has resulted from it, the more important it is that this right should be given effect. This should be done by giving written reasons for the decision or, where they have been given orally, for them to be recorded so that they can be transcribed into written form as soon as possible. Only then can one be certain that the constitutional right has been satisfied.

"[15] It will always be a matter at the court's discretion how much need be said, and whether it should deal with every point that has been raised in the course of the argument. But the guiding principle is one of fairness. The appellant is entitled to be assured that his case has been properly considered and to know why his appeal did not succeed ... ."

But here there was no reason to think that the conviction might be unsafe, and it could not be quashed simply because the appellate court had not provided its reasons for dismissing the appeal. A similar position had occurred in Maharaj v The State (Trinidad and Tobago) [2008] UKPC 28 (8 May 2008).