News type:
Articles and blog posts

News topic:
Guilty plea

Published on:

11 February 2016

The principle that guilty pleas should be taken into account in sentencing is nothing new – Parliament has set this in law.

The purpose of reducing sentences when offenders plead guilty is to get them to admit their guilt as early as possible.  When they do, it saves victims and witnesses the stress of going through a trial, such as having to relive their ordeal and being cross-examined about it. It is especially important that where possible young and vulnerable victims should not be put through what could be for them a traumatic experience.

The guilty-plea principle also improves the efficiency of the criminal justice system by reducing the number of cases that go to trial, allowing police, prosecutors and courts to focus on other cases, which will in turn be of benefit to other victims.

The benefits that can be gained from a guilty plea still apply in cases where the prosecution evidence is overwhelming. If a defendant in such a case pleads guilty, witnesses and victims will still be spared anxiety and uncertainty about whether they will required to attend court and give evidence, and the resources of the justice system will still be saved the time and expense of preparing for a trial.

The Sentencing Council is now proposing stricter rules for sentencing offenders who plead guilty, which you can read about and respond to here. It hopes to incentivise offenders plead guilty earlier in the process than they do at the moment, which will mean victims and witnesses know at an earlier stage that there will not be a trial, and free up more police and prosecutor time to deal with other crimes.

The information on this page was correct at the time of publication.