Pleading Guilty: Why Vulnerability Matters

Jill Peay, Elaine Player

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13 Citations (Scopus)
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This article examines the Sentencing Council's recent definitive guideline on what reductions in sentence can be offered for a guilty plea. We argue that its emphasis on facilitating early guilty pleas represents more than just an incentive to those intending to plead guilty and poses significant risks for defendants with vulnerabilities. The article questions whether the guideline can amount to an inducement to plead guilty which places uneven burdens on defendants and fails to pay due regard to the duties owed by public authorities under the Equality Act 2010. In so doing it asks questions about the integrity of the criminal justice process and argues that issues of cost‐efficiency and the constructed interests of victims may have outweighed both the rights of those with vulnerabilities and the objectives of the legislative framework designed to protect them. The issues raised are universally relevant to any system that favours defendants who offer guilty pleas.

‘At present something of the order of 75 per cent of all Crown Court cases result in pleas of guilty; if in all those cases the defendants were out of defiance or otherwise to insist on each detail of the case being proved to the hilt the administration of criminal justice would be in danger of collapse’, Lord Justice Hughes in R v David Caley and others.1
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)929-957
JournalModern Law Review
Issue number6
Early online date18 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 18 Nov 2018


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