What is the procedure in a criminal case in the Court of Appeal?
What in everyday language is called a 'trial' is known in court as a main hearing. A main hearing in the Court of Appeal is for the most part the same as in the District Court. A key difference of course is that judgment has already been pronounced in the case.
Another difference is that what is stated in the appeal is the starting point for what the Court of Appeal will examine in the hearing. The defendant has perhaps been found guilty of both theft and assault by the District Court. In the appeal the person in question states that he/she accepts being found guilty of theft but does not feel that he/she is guilty of assault. The Court of Appeal in principle only examines whether the person is guilty of assault.
It is also common in the Court of Appeal, instead of hearing a witness or a plaintiff again, to read out what had been said in the hearing in the District Court.
Presiding in a criminal case in the Court of Appeal are three legally qualified judges and two lay judges if the sentence is expected to be greater than a fine.
Who takes part?
The following take part in the hearing
- three legally qualified judges - a presiding judge and two other judges
- two lay judges. These are not trained lawyers and they have completely different professions. The task of the lay judges, together with the legally qualified judges, is to apply the rule of law to the case in question.
- the defendant - the person who is suspected of the crime
- the prosecutor - appears for the state in court
Sometimes involved are
- a defence lawyer (also called public defence counsel) - helps the defendant during the hearing.
- the plaintiff - the person who is the victim of the crime
- A legal adviser - a lawyer or legally trained person who provides support and assistance to the victim of the crime and safeguards his or her interests.
- a recording clerk, often a legally trained person working at the court. He or she writes down what is being said during the hearing.
- witnesses - people who, for example, saw the crime being committed and who therefore come to the court to explain what they know.
- an interpreter - if one of the parties does not speak Swedish or has a visual or hearing impairment.
There could also be people who are there to listen. As the hearing is in most cases a public hearing anyone can come along and listen. Sometimes the court decides that the hearing, or part of the hearing, should be held 'in camera'. This means that only those who are directly involved are permitted to be present.
What happens in the courtroom?
The presiding judge checks who is present
The Court of Appeal summons the parties to the courtroom by means of a public address system. Everyone then enters the courtroom.
The presiding judge checks to see whether everyone has arrived and whether there are any impediments to the hearing taking place. If someone is missing this could result in the hearing being postponed. If this happens, everyone must then be summoned to a new hearing at a later date.
The witnesses are in most cases not present in the courtroom until they are heard. They are therefore often called later. The reason why they are not permitted to be present throughout the whole hearing is that they could be influenced by what others say in the courtroom.
The presiding judge goes through the judgment which has been appealed
One of the judges, the presiding judge, presents the contents of the appealed judgment - often in a considerably shortened form. The judges, the prosecutor and counsel for the defence will have also gone through the appealed judgment before the hearing.
The parties present their claims
The party that has appealed against the judgment states which changes he or she would like the Court of Appeal to make in the judgment pronounced by the District Court. This is called a presentation of claims.
The counterparty then states which changes he or she agrees to and which he or she opposes.
The prosecutor presents the facts
If it is necessary for those present to understand the case, the prosecutor presents what he or she maintains has occurred. This is called a presentation of facts.
The defendant, i.e. the person who is suspected of the crime, or counsel for the defence, then has the opportunity to explain what he or she feels has happened.
At this stage in the hearing the parties often go through the written evidence, such as medical certificates.
Examination of the plaintiff
The plaintiff, i.e. the victim of the crime, is then heard. The parties and the judges can ask questions. Often the plaintiff remains after being heard as there could be someone who wishes to ask further questions. Sometimes the plaintiff has a legal adviser to help.
In exceptional cases the examination of the plaintiff can take place without the defendant being present in the courtroom. In this case the defendant listens to the examination in a separate room.
Examination of the defendant
The defendant, i.e. the person suspected of the crime, gives his/her account of what took place and answers questions.
Examination of witnesses
The witnesses are called one at a time and are examined.
A person called as a witness first takes an oath. The presiding judge reads out the oath and the witness repeats. A person who has taken an oath in the District Court does not need to take a new oath in the Court of Appeal as the old oath is still valid.
Any person who knowingly does not speak the truth under oath or fails to say what he or she knows, could be found guilty of perjury.
The parties and the judges can put questions to the witnesses.
In exceptional circumstances the witness can be examined without the defendant being present in the courtroom. In this case the defendant listens to the examination in a separate room.
In certain situations the Court of Appeal can examine witnesses by telephone or by playing back a recording of the examination of the witness in the District Court.
The defendant's personal circumstances
The defendant's personal circumstances are dealt with. One of the judges then presents the documents available, such as an extract from the criminal records and a statement from the probation service.
The defendant also gives an account of his/her circumstances. The judge asks questions about his or her finances. This is of significance to how heavy the fine will be and how much of the costs for counsel for the defence the defendant must possibly pay.
The parties conclude their cases. The most common procedure is that the prosecutor first summarises his/her views. Counsel for the defence, or the defendant himself/herself, then makes a summary. The prosecutor and counsel for the defence speak, for example, about what they feel has been proven and what sentence they feel the defendant should be given. These are called closing speeches.
Counsel for the defence requests payment for his/her work, often by submitting a bill of costs to the court.
Following the hearing the judges discuss the case and decide how they will rule. This is known as deliberation. Each judge has one vote. No external party is entitled to be present during deliberation and what is said is confidential even after the court has pronounced judgment.
For the most part the judgment is notified at a later date. The chairman of the court then states on which date and at what time the judgment will be notified. In some cases the court pronounces judgment immediately after deliberation.
The court always sends the judgment by post to the parties.
The Court of Appeal tries to plan the proceedings in such a way that no one needs to wait unnecessarily. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to avoid waiting and delays occur from time to time.
There is a public address system which the judges use when they summon the parties and witnesses to the courtroom. You can sit in one of the waiting rooms or in the corridor outside. The Court of Appeal can also arrange for you to wait in another room. Contact the caretaker/security personnel if you wish to do so.
Inside the court there is the possibility for the parties and the witnesses to plug in a headset in order to hear better what is being said in the courtroom. Tell the presiding judge if you have problems hearing what is being said.