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

2834 Words 12 Pages
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
…show more content…
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