Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Pleading Guilty

Life would be so much easier for us criminal defence lawyers if Clients did not fear going to prison. If that were true I am sure that more Clients would plead guilty to offences where the evidence was overwhelming rather than try to convince themselves and others that they were innocent in order to avoid prison. I spent the afternoon today with a Client who gave instructions and we spent a long time going round in circles - he accepted that the evidence was likely to lead to a conviction but he did not want to plead guilty as that would probably result in a prison sentence. He seemed quite happy to plead guilty provided that I could guarantee that he would not go to prison.

The Client left my office considering his options - my feeling is that he will plead not guilty and hold on to a faint glimmer of hope that he will not be convicted.


Anonymous said...

I thought that these days the earliest opportunity for a guilty plea resulted in the lowest sentence, and furthermore thought that was what defence solicitors would advise if the client was clearly guilty.

Is that not the case?

Gavin said...

You are right, guilty pleas at an early stage get up to a third off.

But in advising a Client you have to balance up the evidence on one side, and their account on the other. It is a little bit like gambling. If the evidence is strong the odds of the Client winning are long such as 100-1. If the evidence is less than compelling the odds are far better of winning, say 5-1. The Client's account may raise a defence. So if the Client says that he has a defence but the evidence is strong I tell them that although on their account they are not guilty the chances of success are X. I then throw in what the sentence would be if they pleaded guilty or were found guilty after a trial - then the decision on their plea is down to them.

I cannot force a Client to plead guilty, much like a doctor cannot force a patient to have an operation.