When a person is brought on a criminal charge either to the District Court or to the Supreme Court, evidence will be presented and heard against the accused. After the presentation of the evidence both from the prosecution and the accused, the jury enters a verdict of guilty or not guilty.
If the jury finds that the evidence presented was sufficient to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt, the jury will find him guilty. This is when the question of making an appeal becomes significant. The manner by which an appeal can be brought also becomes an important concern.
First, consider that the accused can appeal on a pure question of law, on a pure question of fact, or on a mixed question of fact and law. When an accused appeals on a pure question of law, he can appeal by right – that is, he does not need to ask leave from the court to file his appeal. He can directly file an appeal with either the Supreme Court or the Court of Appeal. In the two other instances, the accused can appeal only by leave of court. This means that the accused cannot file his appeal directly with the Court of Appeal. He must first apply in the very same District Court or the Supreme Court that tried his case for a certification to file appeal.
Second, consider what a question of fact is. A question of fact arises when the accused assails a conviction on the ground that not all of the elements of the crime had been proven as a fact. That is, the prosecution failed to prove all the facts necessary to convict the accused.
There is also a question of fact when the accused assails the interpretation of testimonial or documentary evidence that proves a fact. For instance, in a murder trial, when the prosecution proves that the fingerprints of the accused were found on the murder weapon, that piece of evidence can be interpreted to mean that the accused handled the murder of weapon. It does not necessarily mean, of and by itself that the accused murdered the victim.
Third, consider what a mixed question of fact and law is. A question is a mixture of fact and law when the interpretation of facts that were proven during the trial depends upon the rules of procedure or the statute defining the crime.
Why, you may ask, is there a need for leave of court to appeal a question of fact and not a question of law? This is because the Court of Appeal is a special court and its power of judicial review extends to review questions of law and the interpretation of the law. The District Court and the Supreme Court are courts that try facts.
Disclaimer : This article is just a summary of the subject matter being discussed and should not be regarded as a comprehensive legal advice for you to defend yourself alone. If you are charged with criminal offences, it is recommended that you seek legal assistance from criminal lawyers.