Court of Appeal
The Court of Appeal is the second highest tier in the Irish courts system. It hears appeals from the High Court in civil cases, and appeals from the Circuit Criminal Court, the Central Criminal Court and the Special Criminal Court in criminal cases.
The Court of Appeal is not a court of local or limited jurisdiction. This means that it is not restricted to hearing cases from certain geographical areas and there is no limit to the amount of monetary damages it can award.
Established in 2014 under the Court of Appeal Act 2014, the Court of Appeal replaced the Court of Criminal Appeal and the Courts-Martial Appeal Court, which were abolished. As a result, the only appeals that go to the Supreme Court are those which raise issues of major public importance or where the interests of justice require such an appeal. For more, see ‘Appealing Court of Appeal decisions’ below.
Structure of the Court
The Court of Appeal is made up of 15 ordinary judges and the President of the Court of Appeal. The President of the High Court and the Chief Justice are additional judges of the Court of Appeal. The President of the Court of Appeal assigns the work of the Court. Cases are normally heard and determined by 3 judges.
However, some interlocutory and procedural applications can be heard by the President or another nominated judge alone. An interlocutory application is an application for a temporary decision on an issue while the case is in progress and awaiting a final decision. Procedural applications could include, for example, an application for legal aid.
In civil matters the Court of Appeal can:
- Hear appeals from decisions of the High Court
- Rule on a question of law submitted to it by the Circuit Court
The Court of Appeal hears appeals against convictions or sentences given by the Circuit Criminal Court, the Central Criminal Court and the Special Criminal Court. If you are convicted of an offence on indictment you can appeal to the Court of Appeal about:
- The severity of the sentence, or
- An alleged miscarriage of justice
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) can appeal to the Court of Appeal about:
- The leniency of a sentence, or
- A decision not to order a retrial
The DPP can also appeal a point of law from a trial on indictment to the Court of Appeal. This does not mean that the Court may overturn the verdict of "not guilty". It simply clarifies the law for future cases.
Although criminal cases are heard and determined by 3 judges, the Court of Appeal gives one judgment unless there is a constitutional issue involved. This means that if one of the judges had a different opinion about the case, it is not made public.
Courts-martial are military courts. They deal with offences against military law by members of the Defence Forces. The Court of Appeal hears appeals from people who have been convicted by a Court-martial.
Information on the court-martial system is available at military.ie.
Appealing Court of Appeal decisions
Decisions of the Court of Appeal can only be appealed to the Supreme Court, if the Supreme Court accepts that:
- The decision involves a matter of general public importance, or
- In the interests of justice, it is necessary that there is an appeal
In exceptional circumstances, the Supreme Court may also hear an appeal direct from the High Court – this is known as a ‘leapfrog appeal’ because the appeal bypasses the Court of Appeal entirely.
However, leapfrog appeals are rare and the same requirements for leave to appeal from the Court of Appeal apply to an application for leave from the High Court. The decision must involve a matter of general public importance or, in the interests of justice, it must be necessary that there be an appeal to the Supreme Court.
You can find further information on the Court of Appeal on the Courts Service website.
You can also contact the Office of the Court of Appeal – Civil, and the Office of the Court of Appeal – Criminal and Military.