Before discussing plea bargaining it is perhaps paramount to define what is meant by the expression. Plea bargaining refers to the exchange of a guilty plea for a reduced charge or some hope of a reduced sentence.' In other words it is an agreement between the prosecution and the defense by which the accused changes his plea from not guilty to guilty in return for an offer by the prosecution or when the judge has informally let it be known that he will minimize the sentence if the accused pleads guilty. This essay will examine the history of plea bargaining in the English legal system, the current situation, compare our system to that in the United States of America and consider the impact of a formal system of plea bargaining on our legal system, justice and equality. Before the twentieth century, the vast majority of criminal cases in Anglo-American jurisdictions were disposed of by jury rather than by guilty plea. Guilty pleas were considered ill-advised, and empirical studies focusing on particular jurisdictions indicate that guilty pleas and plea bargaining in both the United States and the United Kingdom were relatively rare until the latter half of the nineteenth century.
[...] In R v Dossetter, the Court of Appeal cited the passage and observations made by Lord Chief Justice Parker and restated that “plea bargaining, in the sense of seeking to extract from a judge an indication of the sentence which he will give if a particular defendant pleads guilty, forms no part of English criminal jurisprudence”. Today in American courts unlike the English legal system, a system of open- court bargaining replaces trials in most criminal cases. American criminal proceedings have gradually increased in complexity, length and lawyer domination. [...]
[...] Society likes to believe that miscarriages of justice are relatively rare but in fact they are common. If plea bargaining was formalized in the English legal system it would mean that more innocent victims are convicted and faith in the system would be lost. Darbyshire, P. Mischief of Plea Bargaining and Sentencing Rewards' (2000) Criminal Law Review Pages 895 910 Baldwin, J. & McConville, M. (1977) Negotiated Justice, Martin Robertson & Company Ltd pp.1-14 Zander, M. ‘Plea Bargaining Goes Back a Hundred Years' (1998) New Law Journal Page 323 McCabe, S. [...]
[...] As a result, Lord Justice Auld was asked by the Lord Chancellor to review the criminal courts in England and Wales. One of the areas he was required to reassess was whether a formal discounting system of early pleas should be introduced and whether or not plea bargaining should be permitted. Lord Justice Auld believed that advance indication of sentence would benefit defendants and witnesses alike. He proposed a system of graduated discounts where the defendant would be given a greater reduction for an earlier plea. [...]
[...] (1977) Negotiated Justice, Martin Robertson & Company Ltd p.19 Report of the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice (‘RCCJ') (1993, chair Lord Runciman) A Review of the Criminal Courts of England and Wales by the Right Honourable Lord Justice Auld, September 2001 Paras 91 114 Ashworth Genders Mansfield Peay J & Player Sentencing in the Crown Court (Occasional Paper no 10) (Oxford Centre for Criminological Research, 1984) Ashworth, A. Venue and Discontinuance'  Criminal Law Review p 830 Bridges, L. ‘Normalizing Injustice: The Royal Commission on Criminal [...]
[...] The current situation in the English legal system is that plea bargaining is conducted in secrecy. If plea bargaining is to continue in the system then it needs to be controlled and carried out in an open court to avoid miscarriages of justice and inconsistent sentencing. In the American courts, plea bargaining is necessary in order for their legal system to function. The case load is vast and the trials are complex and lengthy. If we were to introduce a formalized system of plea bargaining into the English legal system then the current system would be even more cost-effective and efficient. [...]
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