The Never Ending Story: Disguising Tragic Choices in Criminal Justice

Date01 March 1997
Published date01 March 1997
The Never Ending Story:
Disguising Tragic Choices in Criminal Justice
Richard Nobles and David Schiff*
Rosemary Pattenden,English Criminal Appeals, 1844–1994: Appeals Against
Conviction and Sentence in England and Wales, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996,
xii + 494pp, hb £45.00.
Although, in recent years, a great deal has been written about ‘miscarriages of
justice’ and a great many suggestions have been made about reform of the main
body within the legal system concerned with remedying miscarriages of justice,
namely the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division), an up to date account of that
Court and those other bodies with responsibility for remedying miscarriages of
justice is long overdue. Rosemary Pattenden’s English Criminal Appeals, 1844–
fills that gap. The author has researched widely into the history and current
practices of every form of criminal appeal. Whilst much of the book is directed to
the role and practices of the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) when dealing
with appeals on questions of law or fact, or sentence, it also covers the appellate
work of the Divisional Court, the Crown Court, the House of Lords, the European
Court of Human Rights and the European Court of Justice, the use of judicial
review as a form of appeal, and the work of the Home Office in reviewing
convictions. The author has drawn upon a wide range of source materials
including, inter alia, case and statute law, legislative history and other historical
sources, statistics and personal interviews with senior judges (among others) and
presents a full and informed account of the types of appeals we have, and how we
got them. The stated aims of the book are set out in the preface and, for the
purposes of this review are worth quoting, since to us they indicate both the
breadth of the author’s ambition, and the basis of the book’s shortcomings.
This book explores the history of criminal appeals against conviction and sentence in
England and Wales since the early nineteenth century at all levels of the criminal justice
system. At the same time it sets out the law and practice of criminal appeals, albeit not in a
textbook format, and attempts an appraisal of English criminal appellate processes (p vii).
These are ambitious aims. A book which explores the history of criminal appeals (as
opposed to one which simply relates a narrative of events) might offer some insight
into the historical processes which led to the resistance to, and eventual creation of,
processes for appealing against convictions. A book which sets out the current
practice of criminal appeals, as opposed to merely identifying the relevant rules,
faces complicated empirical tasks. And an appraisal of appellate processes implies a
clear standard for the critique of what is taking place. Ideally these three aims should
overlap, so that, for example, one’s history informs one’s understanding of what
The Modern Law Review Limited 1997 (MLR 60:2, March). Published by Blackwell Publishers,
108 Cowley Road, Oxford OX4 1JF and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA. 293
*Law Department, London School of Economics.
1 All page references in the text are to this book.

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