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Appeals - generally
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Governing legislation

Appeals in civil cases were reformed by sections 54-57 Access to Justice Act 1999.


Grounds for appeal

If a party is unhappy about the decision made by the Judge, it is sometimes possible to appeal against the decision to a Judge in a higher court.


There must be proper grounds for making an appeal and there are strict time limits within which to do so.



Where an appeal is heard is called the 'destination'; the destination of appeals is determined by the Access to Justice Act 1999 (Destination of Appeals) Order 2000.


Tanfern v Cameron-Macdonald [2000] CA Brooke LJ laid down guidance as to the operation of the Act and the Order


The status of a judge is now the deciding factor in determining the destination. Appeal lies to the next level of judge in the judicial hierarchy and not the next level of court in the hierarchy.


Destinations are confusing even to lawyers, the Courts Service provides an interactive guide, here.


Court of Appeal Civil Division

Appeals against the outcome of a hearing in a county court or a High Court are mostly dealt with by the Court of Appeal Civil Division.


The Court of Appeal is based in the Royal Courts of Justice, at the Strand in London. Normally, it sits in up to 12 courts.

The Court of Appeal has been described as the engine room of our judicial system in England and Wales.

It hears appeals in all leading cases in civil and family justice.


The Master of the Rolls is the President of the Court of Appeal, Civil Division.  He is also Head of Civil Justice.


There are 37 other regular judges of the Court of Appeal whose title is Lord/Lady Justice. Many of them also sit in the Criminal Division of the Court of Appeal and in the Divisional Court of the Queen's Bench Division.


The other four Heads of Division also sit occasionally in the Civil Division of the Court of Appeal.


Correct court to hear appeal

Knowing to which court an appeal might lie is not straightforward, and indeed lawyers themselves are sometimes unsure. There is an interactive guide on Her Majesty's Court site designed to help identify the appropriate court in a wide variety of situations.


Only rarely is a second appeal allowed.


Interactive guide here


Appeal routes in civil cases

The following are generally the case, but this is a simplified account:

  • From a small claims decision there is usually no appeal (only on a point of law or misconduct);

  • An appeal from other County Court decisions and from the High Court go to the Court of Appeal (Civil Division). 

Appeals are now governed by the Civil Procedure Rules Part 52.

Leave (permission) is required from either the County Court and if refused then permission can be obtained from the Court of Appeal. 

The appellant has to show that there is a real prospect of success or a compelling reason why an appeal should be heard;

  • The "leap-frog" procedure goes straight from the High Court to the House of Lords, if both parties agree.

  • A Court of Appeal decision can be appealed to the House of Lords but only if the House of Lords gives leave to appeal.

  • Provided a case has a European element involving a point of European Law the case may be referred to the European Court of Justice under Article 234 of the Treaty of Rome, NB this is a referral not an appeal, the point of law is decided and then the case sent back to the referring court.

General rules

If a District Judge heard a case in the County Court appeal would be to a Circuit Judge and be heard in the County Court.


An appeal from a Circuit Judge in the County Court would be to a High Court Judge.


High Court decisions are appealed to the Court of Appeal.


Court of Appeal decisions: if there is a point of law of public importance goes to the House of Lords, the Court of Appeal usually asks certified questions for the Lords to answer.


Appeal court, court below, appellant and respondent

The destination court is referred to as "the appeal court" and the decision comes from ‘the court below’.


A decision is appealed by an "appellant" the person opposing the appeal is usually referred to as the "respondent".


Mediation via CEDR

At the instigation of Lord Woolf (then Master of the Rolls), an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme was established for the Court of Appeal. 


The Court of Appeal's mediation scheme, for non-Family work, is administered by CEDR Solve (Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution)


The parties are not obliged to take part in the scheme and are free to terminate the mediation at any time without giving any reason. 


CEDR is responsible for nominating mediators, preparing a mediation agreement and liaising with the parties over mediation arrangements.


The Court remains responsible for the composition of the Panel and for any adjustment to the fees payable. The Panel includes mediators from a varied range of disciplines including Commercial, Personal Injury, Insurance, Shipping, Employment, Intellectual Property, etc. 


During the first year of its operation from May 2003, the scheme achieved a settlement rate at mediation of 68%.


Family mediation

Family mediations are administered and monitored by the Civil Appeals Office which appoints a suitable mediator from mediation panels provided by the Law Society, the UK College of Mediators or the Solicitors' Family Law Association.


CEDR procedure

Following Professor Genn's recommendations in her paper, "Court based initiatives for non family civil disputes", a Lord/Lady Justice considering an application for permission to appeal is expressly required to consider whether the matter is suitable for mediation. 


If so, the Head of the Civil Appeals Office, sends details of the case to CEDR, who writes directly to the parties seeking agreement to arrange a mediation hearing. 


The full Court may also propose mediation where there are outstanding issues and a possibility of further litigation.


Fee for mediation

The current fee for a mediation under the scheme, covering CEDR Solve's administrative work and 4 hours preparation and up to 5 hours attendance by the mediator is £850 plus VAT per party, unless waived by the Court. 


LSC funding is available where cases are within its scope. 


Mediations can take place anywhere in England and Wales to suit the parties, and are almost always completed within 3 months of referral to CEDR, avoiding any need to stay the appeal.


Appeals from tribunals

Appeals against Tribunal decisions can only be made in relation to points of law and not in relation to factual issues.


Information based on pages from Her Majesty's Court Service web site at :

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