IF YOU'VE BEEN CONVICTED of something in the district court, you have 14 days to appeal it. After the 14 days have expired your time is up and you cannot appeal, strictly speaking.
Some things to understand.
Your appeal will be heard by a different Judge. This may sound obvious to lawyers and people familiar with the court system but to the general public -who have never been to court- it isn’t.
If you lose a case in the District (lower) Court you are entitled to appeal it to the Circuit (Higher) Court. The Circuit Court is the appeal court. It hears appeals from the court below (District). The judges who sit in the circuit court are appeals judges.
They are also different from the judges who sit in the District Court. So, your appeal will be heard by a different judge in a higher court.
Think about it: it would make no sense appealing your case in front of the same judge who convicted you.
if I as a District Court Judge allow you to lodge your appeal
outside the time, that means that I’ll be sending another case
upstairs to my colleague in the Circuit Court to deal with.
And as a Judge, I’m not making a habit of that.
NOW BACK TO time limits.
If you are convicted -and assuming you haven’t been sent to jail- the Judge will do some things. Firstly, if you wish to appeal, they will -if asked- fix appeal terms. This is technically known as “fixing recognisances”. This means that they will set down the terms that must be complied with if you wish to appeal.
Sometimes this involves conditions such as lodging money together with appeal papers before the appeal can be formally accepted by the Court Service.
But not always.
In most cases the Judge doesn’t require you to lodge any money, but they will make it a condition of your appeal that if you don’t turn up for your appeal, you will owe the State a sum of money.
What is the purpose of the money that you lodge?
To ensure that you turn up to face your appeal. You’d be surprised by the number of people who lodge appeal papers and then don’t turn up to face their appeal. And yes, you will get the bail money back once your appeal is finished.
Court rules give you 14 days to appeal a district court case. After that time, you cannot appeal.
But there are exceptions to this.
If the 14-days window has expired, you can bring an application before the District Court to extend the time (window) to appeal.
The important thing to remember here is that the decision whether or not to allow you to appeal is entirely at the discretion of the Judge. They will want to know why you let the 14 days pass without lodging your appeal.
If some intervening act took place between the date of conviction and the date that you’re now trying to have your appeal lodged (e.g., you were taken ill the day after conviction and were in hospital for a month or more) judges normally have no difficulty in opening the window to appeal and allowing you the opportunity to appeal again.
They’ll normally do this because your excuse is plausible, and it might be unfair to deny you the opportunity to have your appeal heard.
But if you waited around and just didn’t bother to lodge your appeal on time, you’re likely headed for choppy waters.
You have to look at from the judge’s point of view.
In virtually every court across Ireland court lists are getting longer. At least if you listen to judges -and I do- that’s what they say.
Many think that more judges should be appointed just to deal with the backlog of cases in the system. And while there has always been a backlog of cases, that backlog exploded during Covid when about 100,000 cases across the country were adjourned from court lists in 2020 into 2021.
They haven’t caught up since.
Think about it: if I as a District Court Judge allow you to lodge your appeal outside the time, that means that I’ll be sending another case upstairs to my colleague in the Circuit Court to deal with.
And as a Judge, I’m not making a habit of that.
So, from their point of view, you can see why a Judge would need plenty of persuasion to allow you to appeal outside the time.
Word of warning though: if you’ve been disqualified from driving, just like everyone else, you have 14 days to appeal. And just like everyone else you can bring a late application to appeal outside the 14 days.
Again, just like with everyone else, the decision whether or not to allow you to appeal is entirely at the Judge’s discretion.
They can allow it or refuse it.
But if you were disqualified from driving and have successfully had the time to appeal extended then you’re still off the road.
Yes, your appeal is now lodged, but you are still disqualified from driving until the appeal has been heard.
What this means is that you cannot drive until your appeal has been concluded, assuming that your appeal is successful.