The Impact of Formalising Plea Bargaining on Justice and Equality in the English Legal System

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The Impact of Formalising Plea Bargaining on Justice and Equality in the English Legal System

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.’[1] In other words it is an agreement between the
prosecution and the defence 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
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As trials became more complex,
the lawyers who were beginning to dominate them developed a more
practical alternative for case disposition and that alternative was
plea bargaining.[3]

Although the adversary system originated in England, English
procedures are now considerably less adversarial than American
procedures, that is, English procedures are simpler, straightforward
and more efficient. English procedures provide more information to
the parties and to the court. Unlike most American jurisdictions,
English law requires defendants to disclose before trial the nature of
their defences and the matters on which the defence intends to join
issue with the prosecution. As a result of English trial proceedings
being more efficient than American procedures, there is less plea
bargaining in England than in the United States. The system of plea
bargaining is known to be commonly used in the United States but it
has always been thought to be used only very cautiously in England and
under strict and carefully constrained conditions.

Less than thirty years ago it was widely believed that plea bargaining
was not practiced at all in England. Since then, plea bargaining, and
in particular, implicit plea bargaining has surfaced; English
defendants are now understood to routinely…

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