15th September 2019

The stress created by the legal system on Victims by the impact of, ‘Closed-door plea deals’ HS 14/9/19 is an outrage but highlights only part of the story.

Hidden from general view is that multiplier impact of a ‘Plea Bargain’. A process that entered our legal system by stealth never having been legislated it also provides a raft of, get out of jail free cards to perpetrators.

By dropping a tranche of offences against an offender and progressing on only one or two for a guilty plea means that the victim, in that case, sees offences they know happened whitewashed.

The next victim of that perpetrator is also impacted because some offences for the next victim may well be second or third times for the perpetrator. Because of ‘Plea Bargaining’, whitewashing, the perpetrator must be dealt with as a first offender on some offences. Previous offences of a type that have not attracted a conviction cannot be referred to in a future trial or ‘Plea Bargain’ and cannot be reflected in any penalty imposed by a Court– that is not justice.

The Community Advocacy Alliance (CAA) has long advocated for a review of this practice.

Aa a practical alternative a ‘Sentence Bargain’, will allow for the judiciary to interpose to ensure the practice is not corrupted as is the possibility with ‘Plea Bargaining’.

Discounting of sentences to achieve a guilty plea is sensible and we do not oppose that principle but ‘Sentence Bargaining’ where an agreement is reached not to seek penalty on some offences must replace ‘Plea bargaining’ but each crime committed must have a conviction recorded as a significant deterrent and a recognition of the trauma caused to the victim.

Lawyers making threats to contest if offences are not whitewashed does not pass the Pub Test by any stretch, the bluff must be called, it is in the public interest.

Perpetrators must be held to account for all their crimes.