About the Court of Appeal

The Court of Appeal is a division of the Supreme Court that hears all appeals from the Supreme and District Courts, and many tribunals.

The court doesn’t hear entire cases or have a jury. It deals only with the subject of the appeal.

The court comprises three or five judges of the Supreme Court. The judge listens to the arguments by the opposing sides and decides whether an error of law was made or some crucial fact was overlooked in the original hearing.

The Court of Appeal can hear civil and criminal cases:

  • Civil cases are disputes between two or more parties (people or organisations) where one party sues the other, usually to obtain a financial benefit. The dispute can concern anything from defamation to a dog-bite.
  • Criminal cases include crimes that are offences against the broader community, ranging from robbery to rape and murder.

The Court of Appeal can:

  • dismiss the appeal and uphold the decision of a lower court or tribunal—in which case, nothing changes
  • allow the appeal, set aside the decision of the lower court and make a different order in its place or order a retrial.

If the application is to appeal against a sentence, the court can increase or decrease the length of the sentence. If the court is considering increasing the sentence on appeal, it will tell you so you may withdraw the application.

If the Attorney-General appeals, the sentence may be increased.