Martin Partington: Spotlight on the Justice System

Keeping the English Legal System under review

Early guilty pleas: national scheme.

leave a comment »

In July 2012, I noted developments relating to the encouragement of early guilty pleas. At that stage, a scheme had been rolled out in the magistrates’ courts and a crown court scheme was being trialled in London.

The crown court scheme has now been rolled out nationally.

The official view of the scheme is:

“The principle of the Early Guilty Plea Scheme is to identify those cases where a defendant is likely to plead guilty and to expedite those cases to an early guilty plea hearing….The Early Guilty Plea Scheme acknowledges that around three quarters of Crown Court cases plead guilty on the day of trial and is designed to encourage the guilty plea where appropriate to be entered at an earlier opportunity to prevent delaying justice unnecessarily.
The Early Guilty Plea Scheme allows the defence and CPS to identify those cases likely to plead guilty and offers a credit on sentence for the defendant where they plead guilty at the Early Guilty Plea Hearing. The Scheme encourages discussion between the CPS and defence practitioners before the Early Guilty Plea Hearing takes place where any issues such as basis of plea can be agreed. This discussion can be undertaken using secure email as a way of ensuring that the CPS are able to respond quickly to any queries. This ensures that all parties are ready for the Early Guilty Plea Hearing where, providing the National Offender Management Service have a pre-sentence report, sentencing can occur at the Early Guilty Plea Hearing avoiding additional hearings for sentence.
One of the benefits of the Scheme for defence practitioners is to enable them to secure maximum credit on sentence for their clients and reducing the number of hearings that they are required to attend. This also relieves the stress and anxiety felt by victims, witnesses and defendants whose case is finalised more quickly.”

As noted in the book the practical advantages of the scheme  – in terms of saving resources, and improving efficiency – are to a degree at odds with the ‘due process’ model of criminal justice. Do you think the correct balance has been achieved?

For more information see


Written by lwtmp

October 18, 2013 at 11:09 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: