Either Way offences have been in the news in the last couple of months insofar as the vastly increased costs of their being heard at Crown Court cf Magistrates` Courts. There are many opponents of the anachronistic right of defendants to choose this mode of trial England being the only jurisdiction which affords defendants this privilege. This position in no way seeks to prevent the lower court in its wisdom from sending the matter to be decided by a judge and jury at the Crown Court. It is right to say that few lawyers will admit to any wish to reduce the availability of jury trials. Whether this is legal altruism or for more pecuniary reasons is not for me to consider. However it does not appear unlikely that changes in this direction will be proposed before 2015. It follows therefore that any such discussion would or should be based on fact in addition to the belief of defence lawyers and their clients that they would be less likely to be convicted by a jury than a magistrates` bench [or District Judge M.C.]
However facts are not easily available on the results of appeals against either way verdicts or sentences when the defendant has chosen to be tried at the Magistrates` Court. In its role as a court of appeal a crown court judge sitting with two magistrates considers appeals against verdict and/or sentence of the lower court. This applies to matters which were summary or either way. Forty five per cent of the appellants dealt with in 2010 had their appeals allowed or their sentence varied, 30 per cent were dismissed and 25 per cent were abandoned or otherwise disposed. In all the total number of appeals to the Crown Court has been steady at about 14,000 for the last couple of years. Defendants who elect trial by jury because they think that Magistrates` Courts would be more likely to convict in either way matters understandingly believe if found guilty that a sentence at the lower court would be more lenient than from a judge. Therefore they and their lawyers opt for the lesser of two evils……..hoping for an acquittal but expecting to be penalised if they have made the wrong gambit. But there are no separate figures available for the number of successful appeals in either way matters against sentence or verdict alone from the lower court. Recent Freedom of Information provides the *table below with the numbers based on verdict or verdict + sentence. So the hopes of defendants are to a large degree based on anecdote.