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

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The Independent Online
Sir: Concerning today's article, 'Innocent 'at risk' under plea bargains', a detective inspector in Liverpool once told me this true story against himself.

Many years before, he had seen a young man behaving suspiciously and carrying a package.

As he approached, the suspect jumped into a red MG sports car and sped away. The officer returned to his car and gave chase, never losing sight of the MG until momentarily, when it turned into a cul-de-sac and the suspect dived into a back alley. However, he was soon in the officer's sight again, but eventually he


Reinforcements were summoned and eventually the suspect was found hiding behind some bushes with six cassette players. Asked to account for them, he said: 'It's like this, guv. I was taking a short cut through the jiggers when this man (who I'd never seen before in my life) dashed up to me and said, 'Take these things. You can have them'. Then I saw you coming and decided to hide.'

What a likely story] The policeman checked with criminal records and found he had a history of thefts and he was arrested and charged.

The man's solicitor told him there was no chance that the court would believe such a cock-and-bull story - he would probably get four years. His only hope was to plead guilty and apologise. He might get away with two years. That is what happened.

The officer thought no more about the case until years later when a well-known thief was arrested and asked for 50 other cases to be taken into consideration. He looked down the list - and saw the case of the six cassette players.

He confronted the defendant and said: 'I am ready to accept 49 of your TICs, but you definitely did not do this one. I know because I was on the case.'

'I certainly did,' said the prisoner. 'I'll tell you exactly what happened. I pinched these cassette players, got away in a red MG, and was being chased by a copper when I met a chap in a back alley. I thrust the loot into his arms and ran away.'

The original two-year sentence had long since been served. There could be no redress because the victim had pleaded guilty, and therefore, in theory, there could not have been any miscarriage of justice.

'It made me think,' said the inspector, 'but there was nothing I could do.'

Yours faithfully,



West Midlands

1 June