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Plea Bargaining

Attorney General written question – answered on 15th February 2017.

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Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Conservative, South West Wiltshire

To ask the Attorney General, what information his Department holds on the number of plea bargains offered to defendants in England since 2010.

Photo of Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright The Attorney-General

All decisions by the prosecution are made in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors which sets out a Full Code Test that applies at all stages of any prosecution.

In addition to the principles set out in the Code, a prosecutor considering a plea offered by the defence will have regard to the Attorney General's Guidelines on the Acceptance of Pleas and the Prosecutor's Role in the Sentencing Exercise [2009] and the Attorney General’s Guidelines on Plea Discussions in cases of serious or complex fraud (where appropriate).

The Full Code Test states that a prosecution will only proceed if the prosecutor finds sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and that a prosecution is in the public interest. As such a prosecutor will assess the acceptability of a plea to determine whether it accords with the broad extent of the criminality that met the evidential stage of the Full Code test.

If this stage is met the prosecutor will further consider whether it is in the public interest to accept the plea. In addition the prosecutor will ensure that the basis of a guilty plea is not based on a misleading or untrue set of facts and that proper account is taken of the victim's interests prior to any plea being accepted. The Code is clear that prosecutors should only accept such pleas if the court is able to pass a sentence that matches the seriousness of the offending.

Neither the Crown Prosecution Service nor the Serious Fraud Office maintain a central record of cases involving the acceptance of a guilty plea to some or alternative charges, or whether they were accepted on a particular basis. This information could only be obtained by examining CPS or SFO case files, which would incur disproportionate cost.

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