Reduction in Sentence for a Guilty plea – The Definitive guideline
In my previous blog on this subject I entreated people to take part in the consultation regarding the proposed changes to the reductions in sentence that should be applied for a guilty plea.
Those proposed changes have now come to pass. Consequently, for all offenders aged 18 or over and organisations that have their first hearing in respect of their proceedings on or after 1 June 2017 the following will apply:
Where a plea is indicated at the first stage of the proceedings a reduction of one third (maximum) applies. The “first stage of the proceedings” for summary offences is up to and including the first hearing at the Magistrates’ Court, for either way offences up to and including the allocation hearing at the Magistrates Court (my emphasis) and for indictable only offences up to and including the first hearing at the Crown Court.
If a plea is entered after the first stage of the proceedings the maximum level of reduction is one fifth or 20%.
Although the “Definitive guideline” doesn’t state this in terms the proposals in the consultation were as follows which I assume will be the basis upon which the Judiciary operate from 1 June 2017 onwards:
For summary offences a 20% reduction can be given if a plea is entered 14 days after the first hearing,
For either way offences sent to the Crown Court for trial it can be given up to and including the first hearing at the Crown Court;
and for indictable only offences not more than 28 days after the prosecutor states it has complied with section 3 of CPIA 1996 and served disclosure.
There is a sliding scale thereafter down to one-tenth on the first day of the trial down to zero if entered during the course of the trial.
A trial is deemed to have started when “pre-recorded cross-examination has begun” so in theory this means the accused could get a tenth off if they plead after the opening speeches but before any witness evidence it heard.
Perhaps not all is lost though for those offenders that are involved in the larger and more complex legal proceedings as one of the exceptions to these guidelines being applied is “Further information, assistance or advice necessary before indicating plea”.
This exception would appear to retain the ability of the Defence to make representations to the sentencing Judge, in the event of a delayed guilty plea, that they were particular circumstances which “significantly reduced the Defendant’s ability to understand what was alleged or otherwise made it unreasonable to expect the Defendant to indicate a guilty plea sooner than was done (their emphasis)”
Consequently, from now on it will be even more important to inform the Court at each stage of proceedings exactly why it is that the client’s plea is not guilty.
Ben Brocklehurst is a vastly experienced Lawyer with particular expertise in defending high value white collar crime and related Restraint/Confiscation proceedings.