On 20 May 2014, Sgt Danny Nightingale was refused leave to appeal against his conviction.
What does that mean?
When someone wants to appeal against conviction or sentence, they have to apply for permission. This is reviewed by the Single Judge (a High Court judge who looks at the case papers but doesn’t hear any oral argument) and permission is either granted or refused.
If permission is refused, the appellant has the opportunity to ‘renew’ the application before the full court. This means that the application goes before the court (in front of two or three judges, as appropriate) for an oral hearing. At that hearing, the appellant must apply for permission to appeal again. If it is granted, the court then hears the appeal, if it is refused, that is the end of the line.
We have a fact sheet on the appeals process which contains further details.
Ok, so remind me of the history of the Nightingale case…
Well, where to start? But in essence…
- He was charged with possession of a prohibited weapon and ammunition.
- He pleaded guilty and was sentenced.
- We have a short post on the basic background up to this point here.
- He appealed against his sentence, and was successful.
- See here for a post about the sentence appeal.
- He then applied to vacate his plea (withdraw it, essentially) so that he could plead not guilty and have a trial.
- He then made an abuse of process application – an attempt to stop the trial from proceeding. See our post on that, here.
- He was tried and was convicted at the retrial. We have a fact sheet on that here.
- He was then sentenced (again).
- It now appears that he appealed against his conviction, again. See here for an ITV news report.
So what happened?
It is our understanding that Nightingale applied for permission to appeal and was refused by the Single Judge. We then believe that he renewed that application before the full court, led by the Lord Chief Justice.
That application was refused – Nightingale failed in his attempt to have a full hearing about his appeal.
The court will have reviewed the grounds of appeal – the reasons why Nightingale says his conviction is unsafe – and decided that the conviction was safe.
And what happens next?
Well, that will most likely be the end of the line for Nightingale. There is an avenue to appeal to the Supreme Court but that has to be on the basis that there is a point of law of general public importance. On the information we have seen, it would appear that this is not such a case. Further, this can only be a possibility where the Court of Appeal grants leave to appeal and then dismisses the actual appeal. Here, it seems that the Court of Appeal simply refused to grant permission to appeal.
So Nightingale is left with a conviction for firearms, and thousands upon thousands of pounds of public money (to pay for the court time) and Nightingale’s supporters’ money (to pay for his lawyers) has been spent.