Letter: When the innocent discover that pleading guilty is not a bargain court

Related Topics
Sir: I was very pleased to see that your newspaper ('Innocent 'at risk' under plea bargains', 1 June) had highlighted the issue of plea bargaining and the excellent report on this produced by Justice. Liberty has, over the years, received a number of complaints from individuals who have pleaded guilty following pressure from lawyers and others, only to find that there is virtually nothing that they can then do to overturn that decision - despite the fact that they have good grounds for claiming their innocence.

Plea bargaining is supposedly based on the principle that pleas of guilt demonstrate contrition, but on closer inspection proposals for increasing the practice are devoid of any principle at all.

The Bar Council's proposals suggest that the difference between pleading guilty several months after arrest, once all the prosecution evidence has been disclosed, and being convicted at trial should be some 30 per cent or, say, three years off a 10 year sentence. I find it difficult to discern the principle involved in this given that the differing sentence will be given for exactly the same crime.

The legal premise that plea bargaining will damage is the presumption of innocence and the right to expect the prosecution to have to prove its case. Innocent people do plead guilty under pressure, and it is very likely that the numbers who do so will increase if plea bargaining is put on a formal footing and the pressure to plead guilty is increased.

It has been said that plea bargaining is only about putting pressure on the guilty to admit their guilt at the earliest possible stage so that the precious resources of the criminal justice system can be reserved for those who deserve it. Therefore, the innocent have nothing to fear.

However, Liberty's concern is that the proposals will take away the right to a fair trial from both the innocent and the guilty. Those most at risk will be the disadvantaged who are vulnerable to such pressure. In addition, the apparent and real racism within the criminal justice system may mean some black people are less likely to co-operate and receive longer sentences as a result.

Obviously, we must constantly search for new ways of ensuring that the criminal justice system is efficient and effective. But this proposal attacks the very principles on which the system is based.

Yours faithfully,


Legal Oficer


London, SE1

1 June

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 5 Teacher

£80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...

Software Developer

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...

Systems Analyst / Business Analyst - Central London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...

Senior Change Engineer (Network, Cisco, Juniper) £30k

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

Day In a Page

Read Next

i Editor's Letter: A huge step forward in medical science, but we're not all the way there yet

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
David Cameron has painted a scary picture of what life would be like under a Labour government  

You want constitutional change? Fixed-term parliaments have already done the job

Steve Richards
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album