Statement of case by Magistrates’ Court.

Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980 S111

Statement of case by magistrates’ court.

(1)Any person who was a party to any proceeding before a magistrates’ court or is aggrieved by the conviction, order, determination or other proceeding of the court may question the proceeding on the ground that it is wrong in law or is in excess of jurisdiction by applying to the justices composing the court to state a case for the opinion of the High Court on the question of law or jurisdiction involved; but a person shall not make an application under this section in respect of a decision against which he has a right of appeal to the High Court or which by virtue of any enactment passed after 31st December 1879 is final.

(2)An application under subsection (1) above shall be made within 21 days after the day on which the decision of the magistrates’ court was given.

(3)For the purpose of subsection (2) above, the day on which the decision of the magistrates’ court is given shall, where the court has adjourned the trial of an information after conviction, be the day on which the court sentences or otherwise deals with the offender.

(4)On the making of an application under this section in respect of a decision any right of the applicant to appeal against the decision to the Crown Court shall cease.

(5)If the justices are of opinion that an application under this section is frivolous, they may refuse to state a case, and, if the applicant so requires, shall give him a certificate stating that the application has been refused; but the justices shall not refuse to state a case if the application is made by or under the direction of the Attorney General.

(6)Where justices refuse to state a case, the High Court may, on the application of the person who applied for the case to be stated, make an order of mandamus requiring the justices to state a case.

Appeals by way of case stated are statutory appeals, requiring justices (insofar as appeals from the Magistrates’ Court are concerned) to set out their findings of fact and law and to specify questions for the opinion of the Divisional Court of the High Court. The circumstances under which a case stated appeal can be made are restricted to questions of law and not fact.

Such appeals are governed by the Magistrates’ Court Act 1980 and part 52 of the Civil Procedure Rules.

An appeal by way of case stated constitutes a distinct route of appeal and must be distinguished from application for judicial review. Judicial review is more appropriate where there may be allegations of unfairness in the way the Court conducted the case; whereas appeal by case stated is likely to be more appropriate where it is alleged that the court misdirected itself or erred in law.

Who may appeal?

The Magistrates Court Act states that “any person who was a party to any proceedings before a magistrates’ court or is aggrieved by the conviction, order, determination or other proceedings may question the proceeding”. Clearly therefore both parties may appeal by way of case stated. It should be noted that an “aggrieved person” may include any person whose rights have been affected by the decision.

In order to discourage time consuming and costly appeals being commenced but not ultimately pursued the Magistrates Court Act allows the Magistrates’ court to make its agreement to state a case conditional upon the applicant entering into a recognisance that they will undertake the appeal without delay and pay any costs which are ultimately awarded against them. A failure to enter into such a recognisance absolves the clerk of the obligation to deliver the case stated to the applicant.

Procedure on Appeal by way of Case Stated

Strict time limits apply. Applications to state a case must be made in writing to the clerk to the justices within 21 days of the decision complained of, unless the Magistrates’ Court directs otherwise. This time limit cannot be extended. The application to state a case must identify the question of law or jurisdiction on which the High Court’s opinion is sought. The Magistrates can refuse to state a case if they believe it to be without merit.

After the application has been approved, it is the Magistrates’ clerk who drafts the statement of case, which is then sent to the appellant, or their solicitor.

The procedure for taking the case to the High Court is governed by the Civil Procedure Rules, rule 52 which stipulates that all parties to an appeal must comply with the Practice Directions, in particular 52E.

Within 10 days of receiving the case, the appellant, or their legal representative, must lodge the case at the relevant High Court office / Administrative Court Office. The appellant must serve the appellant’s notice and accompanying documents on the respondents within 4 days of their being lodged at the Court. The time for lodging the case may be extended by the High Court, but without such an extension the claim may be struck out if the appellant fails to lodge within the stipulated 10 days.

Content of the Case Stated

The case should state the facts, but not usually the evidence, found by the court together with the question of law or jurisdiction upon which the opinion of the High Court is sought, together with authorities cited, and a summary of the contentions of the parties.

Where it is questioned whether there was any or sufficient evidence upon which the court come to its decision based on certain facts, then the particular findings of facts must be specified.

The appellant (as the applicant will have become by this stage) bears the burden of preparing paginated bundles in chronological order, including the decision to be appealed, any relevant correspondence between the parties or between the parties and the lower court, the lower court’s reasoned judgment, the case statement and any order by the High Court.

Witness statement evidence should be rare because the case statement itself forms the basis of the legal argument. The appellant’s skeleton argument should be lodged with the Court, if not when the case stated is lodged, then within 14 days. Skeleton arguments on behalf of the respondent and/or any interested party should usually be served no later than 14 days before the hearing date.

Abandonment

There is no provision for abandonment of a case which has been lodged with the High Court. In practice however an appellant may abandon an appeal by case stated without leave, having obtained the other party’s written consent. Where the appellant fails to pursue the appeal, the respondent may apply to the High Court to have the appeal dismissed.

The Hearing

No evidence can be called at the hearing, which will be conducted by legal submissions only. The appellant must show that the decision of the lower court was wrong, even if the appellant does not appear. Where neither party appears, the Court will not offer its opinion on the case. If a two judge court cannot agree the appeal is unsuccessful.

The Court shall either:

  • Reverse, affirm or amend the determination in respect of which the case has been stated; or
  • Remit the matter to the Magistrates’ Court with the opinion of the High Court, and may make such other order in relation to the matter (including costs) as it thinks fit.

Costs follow the event, subject to the High Court’s discretion. The power to order costs may extend to the costs of the initial hearing(s) in the lower court.

No further appeal (with or without permission) is permitted (Farley v Child Support Agency and Secretary of State for Pensions [2005] EWCA Civ. 869).

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