Law Society - General Interest threadWatch
hi all, i was just wondering what happens to defendants who say that they are guilty? i have searched all the possible places and i cant find any good sites. also in addition to this question do any AS Law Students know what good books there are, i mean to revise from like letts, thing is that they dont do it but i like the way that they are laid out i.e colour, not too thick etc
thanks in advance,
Of course, this opens up a whole raft of sensitive issues in the criminal justice system. As a very brief introduction to some of the potential issues, here are some of my lecture notes from last year:
The popular image of the criminal trial that is portrayed in the media, films, TV dramas and even the legal texts revolves around the idea of adversarial trial. We can easily picture the scene with barristers engaging in examination and cross-examination of witnesses in the courtroom and the judge and jury listening attentively to what is being said. And everyone knows that defendants are to be considered innocent until they are proved guilty and that, for a conviction, a defendant’s guilt must be established beyond reasonable doubt.
Yet this depiction of the way that the criminal courts in England and Wales operate is in large part a myth. The outcome of very few cases is reached in this way. Jury trial is now a rare exception. Indeed, of all criminal cases which might be heard before a jury, only about one per cent are so tried. Instead, the great majority of defendants who appear in the criminal courts plead guilty. About five in every six defendants proceeded against in the courts in relation to ‘indictable’ criminal offences are dealt with in the magistrates’ courts, and well over 90 per cent of them plead guilty. Of the relatively small number of defendants who reach the Crown Courts, over 70 per cent plead guilty. These high rates of guilty pleas in the criminal courts prompted Sanders and Young (2000) to refer to “the mass production of guilty pleas” in the criminal courts. That so many defendants plead guilty is extraordinary yet, until recently, it scarcely merited a mention in the criminal law texts.
In understanding how the criminal courts operate, it is very important to examine why guilty plea rates are so high. It is, for instance, of considerable relevance where there are allegations of rape. In such cases, there is frequently a good deal of negotiation between prosecution and defence in an effort to secure a guilty plea, perhaps to a lesser offence such as indecent assault. One undoubted benefit derived from such negotiation is that a guilty plea avoids the need for a jury trial which will be expensive and may well be an extremely disagreeable experience for the complainant. In such negotiations, lawyers (and sometimes trial judges) often go to great lengths to “carve up” cases so as to avoid a trial. It is not difficult to appreciate the attractions of plea negotiation to the participants, the courts and the taxpayer. Indeed, the benefits to the court bureaucracy and to the lawyers are so great that, even if we wanted to, it would be extremely difficult to eradicate such practices.
However, it is equally clear that where such plea negotiation takes place serious problems may arise. There is in particular a danger that innocent defendants might be induced to plead guilty because of the fear that they will receive an increased sentence if they do not do so. One might also question whether it is right that fundamental principles of adversary trial should be traded in this way. “There is an element of gambling in the defendant's decision making here,” Ashworth (1998) observed, “the roulette wheel has taken the place of the rule of law.”
Conducting research on plea negotiation is extremely difficult since these practices tend to be hidden from public view. The limited empirical research evidence that is available shows the lawyers who are involved in a bad light, however. They are portrayed as being more concerned to get rid of their cases as quickly as possible (particularly so as to maximize their own remuneration) than to ensure that the evidence is thoroughly ventilated in court and that justice is done. In one study, McConville and his colleagues (1994) were very critical of the poor standards of preparation by members of the Bar, and they viewed the subtle and insidious pressures exerted by counsel to induce a guilty plea as intended to “sap” defendants’ determination to go to trial.
Despite the concerns that have been voiced about the negotiation of guilty pleas, the emphasis in government policy in recent years has nonetheless been to encourage the tendering of guilty pleas as early as possible in the criminal process. In the Government’s White Paper, Justice for All (CM 5563, 2002), for instance, it is stated that:
“We .. intend to introduce a clearer tariff of sentence discount, backed up by arrangements whereby defendants could seek advance indication of the sentence they would get if they plead guilty” (para 4.42)
Whether this approach, which serves to reinforce existing practice, will “help to encourage more defendants who are guilty to plead guilty earlier” as is claimed in the same paragraph of the White Paper or foster further plea negotiation strategies is open to question. The same might be said about the advent of Plea and Directions Hearings in the Crown Court. PDHs provide an opportunity for barristers and their clients to meet with the judge some weeks before the date scheduled for trial to discuss the arrangements for the trial. Similar procedures have been adopted in magistrates’ courts where various forms of ‘pre-trial review’ have been introduced in recent years.
It might be argued that developments of this kind in effect institutionalise practices of plea negotiation, especially when they are reinforced by the offer of clear discounts for early guilty pleas. Whatever might be said to the contrary, there is always a danger that important principles of our criminal justice system might be sacrificed to expediency with the consequent risks that this carries to the innocent.
J. Baldwin and M. McConville, Negotiated Justice (1977) chapters 2 and 3.
M. McConville, J. Hodgson, L. Bridges and A. Pavlovic, Standing Accused (1994) chapter 10.
A. Ashworth, The Criminal Process (2nd edition, 1998) chapter 9.
A. Sanders and R. Young, Criminal Justice (2nd edition, 2000) chapter 7.
M. McConville, “Plea Bargaining” pp 353-77 in M. McConville and G. Wilson (eds),
The Handbook of the Criminal Justice Process (2002)
hey im new to TSR can i join?
too late to join?
Can I become a member please
ONe thing, does ne1 noe agood law journal that is not too hard 2 read...im searching for htat that is not too dense and that in terms of the vocabulary, isn't too advanced...thanks a lot!!!!