Credit for Pleading Guilty

Introduction

Often in news reports (and when we write cases up) we talk about people having ‘credit’ for a plea of guilty. What does that mean?

 

Background

The Courts have always given a defendant a ‘discount’ for entering a plea of guilty. There are various reasons for this : it saves time and money (trials are obviously a lot more expensive), it spares the victim the stress of giving evidence and it can be an indicator of remorse.

The general rule of thumb was that a discount of 1/3 would be given for a guilty plea at the ‘earliest opportunity’.

 

Current Position

This general rule was made formal over time. According to s144 Criminal Justice Act 2003:

 (1) In determining what sentence to pass on an offender who has pleaded guilty to an offence in proceedings before that or another court, a court must take into account—

    (a) the stage in the proceedings for the offence at which the offender     indicated his intention to plead guilty, and

    (b) the circumstances in which this indication was given.

 

The Sentencing Guidelines Council has also issued guidelines on this. On 21st December 2012, the Court of Appeal gave judgment in the case of Caley [2012] EWCA Crim 2821 (we will look at this case in more detail in a further post as it is fairly controversial).

Putting it together, the discount runs on a sliding scale from 1/3 down to zero depending on when the plea is indicated (as opposed to formally entered to the Court). Generally speaking, the first opportunity would be the first appearance at the Magistrates’ Court, although every case is different and should be treated on its own facts.

In practice, up until the ‘Plea and Case Management Hearing’ in the Crown Court, the ‘full’ discount will be given. Thereafter the amount will diminish to about a quarter, until the day of trial where a plea will normally attract a discount of 10%.

However, many Judges will often give a greater discount than that for a plea on the day of trial. This is a pragmatic way of dealing with things, as well as a recognition that with the current state of funding for the defence and organisation in the CPS, the day of trial is sometimes the first realistic time that both parties (and lawyers) can sit down and discuss and analyse the case properly.

 

Are there any exceptions?

Yes. In cases of murder, the discount in the tariff is 1/6 rather than 1/3 and, in any event, not greater than 5 years. There is no particular rational reason for this.

The fact that the evidence in the case is strong is not reason to withdraw a discount (although in very strong cases the reduction can be less).

Also, the fact that the Judge considers that the maximum sentence is insufficient is not a reason to give less of a discount (a common example is dangerous driving where the maximum is two years).

A Judge does always have a discretion as to what discretion can be given. Sometimes this can be higher than 1/3 if an early plea is coupled with genuine remorse.

There are also exceptions for those offences that attract a mandatory minimum sentence.

 

Is it right that there should be a discount?

When it was suggested in 2011 that there could be a greater discount (of up to 50%) there was strong opposition in many newspapers. Perhaps as part of a backlash to this, there were some people questioning whether a discount should be given at all – the rhetorical question was phrased as to why guilty people should be ‘rewarded’ for pleading guilty in this away, or that they would somehow escape part of their punishment.

We would suggest that the criticism is misguided and it is absolutely right that people should get credit. This is for the reasons set out above. To get rid of the discount entirely would mean that many more people would go to trial. There would be nothing to lose for them and there is always the chance that something will go wrong or a jury will return a surprising verdict. This would be ruinously expensive, as well as being terrible for victims who would have to go through the process of giving evidence in almost every case. We already see this happening (to some extent) in firearms cases where there is a mandatory 5 year sentence (with no discount) for some offences – many cases that would perhaps otherwise end in a plea of guilty go to a trial.

Advertisements

30 thoughts on “Credit for Pleading Guilty

  1. Pingback: Chris Hune pleads to perverting the course of justice | UK Criminal Law Blog

  2. Pingback: Tracks in the snow catches mugger (sort of) – Margiris Jogel | UK Criminal Law Blog

  3. Pingback: Solicitor, turned crime writer, turned criminal – the case of Nathan Iyer | UK Criminal Law Blog

  4. Pingback: Why don’t people plead guilty to murder? | UK Criminal Law Blog

  5. Pingback: UK Criminal Law Blog

  6. Pingback: Villainous Vicar banged up | UK Criminal Law Blog

  7. Pingback: Carlton Janson – JP receives a Suspended Sentence for Fraud | UK Criminal Law Blog

  8. Pingback: Michael Ireland – Spiritual Healer sent to prison | UK Criminal Law Blog

  9. Pingback: R v Huhne and Pryce – What is the likely sentence? | UK Criminal Law Blog

  10. Pingback: CPS Employees plead guilty to fraud | UK Criminal Law Blog

  11. Pingback: Peter Bunyan – | UK Criminal Law Blog

  12. Pingback: Van raiders get 57 grands worth of lego, and 3½ years | UK Criminal Law Blog

  13. Pingback: Natalie Jarvis Murder – Adam Whelehan gets life in prison | UK Criminal Law Blog

  14. Pingback: Another Day, Another Facebook Prosecution (Michaela Turner) | UK Criminal Law Blog

  15. Pingback: Jeremy Forrest Sentenced | UK Criminal Law Blog

  16. Pingback: Alan Greaves murder – two jailed for killing of church organist | UK Criminal Law Blog

  17. Pingback: Danny Nightingale retrial sentence – 2 years imprisonment (suspended) | UK Criminal Law Blog

  18. Pingback: Denise Salter – Building Society Manager jailed for theft | UK Criminal Law Blog

  19. Pingback: Badly Disguised Boy – Vasile Bogda | UK Criminal Law Blog

  20. Pingback: Peru Drugs case – what would McCollum and Reid get in England? | UK Criminal Law Blog

  21. Pingback: Pensioner jailed for drug dealing – Alvin Ricketts | UK Criminal Law Blog

  22. Pingback: Coroner pleads guilty to ‘stealing from the dead’ – Alan Crickmore | UK Criminal Law Blog

  23. Pingback: UK Criminal Law Blog

  24. Pingback: Wesley Williams – life for murder of ex and son | UK Criminal Law Blog

  25. Pingback: Keith Wallis admits ‘Plebgate’ offending | UK Criminal Law Blog

  26. Pingback: Keith Wallis sentenced for ‘Plebgate’ offending | UK Criminal Law Blog

  27. Pingback: The ‘Peterborough Ditch Murders’ – Joanna Dennehy’s co-defendants | UK Criminal Law Blog

  28. Pingback: Naeem Mehmood jailed for Rotherham Machete Murder | UK Criminal Law Blog

  29. Pingback: Silk (Series 3, Episode 5) | UK Criminal Law Blog

  30. Pingback: Max Clifford Sentenced – 8 years | UK Criminal Law Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s