Prosecutors may be given right to appeal

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The Independent Online

Prosecutors should be given the right to appeal when judges throw serious criminal cases out of court, the Law Commission said yesterday.

Prosecutors should be given the right to appeal when judges throw serious criminal cases out of court, the Law Commission said yesterday.

The commission said such powers would help ensure the jury, rather than the judge, decided on the guilt or innocence of the defendant.

The recommendation follows claims by the Home Secretary, Jack Straw, that the laws - giving only defendants the right to appeal - create an "imbalance". Mr Straw's comments were echoed by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf, in a speech at the annual judges' dinner last week. Mr Straw had asked the Law Commission, which advises the Government, to address the issue earlier this year.

Releasing the findings yesterday, Law Commissioner Judge Alan Wilkie QC, said the introduction of prosecution appeals would strengthen the jury's role. "Our proposals would allow the Court of Appeal to correct an erroneous ruling by a judge before the trial or during the prosecution case. It would be the jury, not the judge, who decided on the guilt or innocence of the defendant."

A ruling that could result in a suspect walking free, either on a point of law or because the prosecution threw in its hand, should be open to challenge provided the prosecution had not completed its case. But a judge's decision that there was no case to answer taken after hearing all the prosecution evidence should be binding, the paper said.

There should also be no appeal against a jury's "not guilty" verdict, even if a defendant was cleared after a mistake in the judge's summing-up.