How to appeal

What you can appeal

An appeal is not a retrial or a re-sentence. In most cases, the court hears only legal argument about a specific point and will consider only the evidence that was given at the original trial or sentence.

Usually, to win an appeal, you must show that the magistrate, judge or jury in the original case made a mistake that affected the outcome.

In criminal cases, you can appeal only a guilty verdict. A not guilty verdict is final.

If you’re found guilty of an offence, you can apply for leave (permission) to appeal if you think the sentence is too harsh.

You can appeal if you think the magistrate, judge or jury made a mistake that resulted in your conviction—not if they didn’t believe your story.

How to appeal

An appeal hearing in a higher court begins when you the lodge a notice of appeal against a lower court decision.

However, appeals may be complex and the process for appealing depends on many factors, including the offence and the original court. For details about the appeals process, read the relevant document for:

Civil matters

Criminal matters

Where the appeal is heard

  • If the original case was heard in the District or Supreme Court, the appeal is heard in the Court of Appeal. Some appeals require the Court of Appeal to give leave to appeal before the court can hear the appeal.
  • If the original case was heard in the Magistrates Court, the appeal is heard in the District Court. Read how to appeal a Magistrates Court decision.
  • Parties to a proceeding can appeal a QCAT decision to QCAT’s Appeal Tribunal or in limited circumstances, to the Court of Appeal (Supreme Court). Refer to the QCAT website for information to determine where you must appeal the decision made by QCAT.

Who can appeal

Different parties can appeal a decision, depending whether it’s a civil or criminal case, and whether leave to appeal is required.

Civil cases

In civil cases, any party can appeal a decision, but some appeals can only be heard if the court gives permission for the appeal.

Sometimes the court hears appeals from people who either should have been parties to the original action but were left out, or were not parties but were directly affected by the outcome.

Criminal cases

In criminal cases, only those directly involved in the case can appeal—the defendant and the Crown.

The Crown can appeal only a sentence, but a defendant can appeal a guilty verdict and/or apply for leave to appeal against a sentence.

The Queensland Attorney-General may appeal against sentence only. The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions can also appeal in Commonwealth criminal matters. The case for the Crown will usually be presented by a Crown prosecutor from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Who can’t appeal

  • Victims of crime, though they may apply for assistance from Victim Assist Queensland
  • Family or friends of the accused
  • Members of the public

Representing yourself

You can represent yourself in the Court of Appeal. However, you may wish to consult with a lawyer about whether you have valid grounds to appeal. Read the difference between legal and procedural advice.

If your case is successful

Civil case

If your civil case appeal is successful, the court may change the original decision or order a retrial (particularly if one side can show they’ve found important new evidence).

Criminal case

If the appeal against the conviction is successful, the court will either order a new trial with a different judge and jury, or find the appellant not guilty.

If the appeal against the sentence is successful, the sentence may be reduced or a different type of sentence may be imposed.