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Fifty per cent discount for guilty pleas

Published:Friday | April 17, 2015 | 12:00 AMDaraine Luton

CRIMINALS WHO confess to serious crimes such as non-capital murder, shooting and rape may soon be able to up to 50 per cent discount on their sentences if they acknowledge their guilt at the first opportunity.

The Criminal Justice (Administration) Act, which was tabled in the Senate yesterday by Justice Minister Mark Golding, states that where the defendant indicates to the court, on the first relevant date, that he wishes to plead guilty to an offence, the sentence may be reduced by up to 50 per cent.

The first relevant date refers to the first date on which the defendant, who is represented by an attorney-at-law, or who elects not to be represented by a lawyer, is brought before the court after the judge or resident magistrate is satisfied that the prosecution has made adequate disclosure to the defendant of the case against him, in respect of the charge for which the defendant is before the court.

Where the defendant indicates to the court after the first relevant date, but before the start of the trial, that he wishes to plead guilty, the sentence may be reduced by up to 35 per cent.

A 15 per cent discount has been proposed in instances where the guilty plea has been entered once the trial has commenced but before the verdict is given.

Golding tabled two bills in the Senate, which, if passed, could pave the way for discounted sentences for guilty pleas.


Appeal against sentence


One of the bills, the Judicature (Appellate Jurisdiction) Act, makes provision for a person who has been tried and convicted of an offence, which carries a prescribed minimum penalty, to appeal to the Court of Appeal against the sentence.

The other bill seeks to amend the Criminal Justice (Administration) Act to make provisions for sentence reduction on guilty pleas.

The bill also seeks to provide for the review by the Court of Appeal in limited circumstances of a prescribed minimum penalty imposed by the court, on conviction of a defendant for an offence.

Golding, in the memorandum of objects and reasons, said that where a defendant pleads guilty to an offence with which he has been charged, the court may reduce the sentence that it would otherwise have imposed on the defendant had the defendant been tried and convicted for the offence.

"The court will take into account the stage in the proceedings at which the defendant indicated his intention to plead guilty and may apply a discount in accordance with the guidelines stipulated in the Bill," Golding explained.

"The reduction will be greater the earlier in the criminal justice process that the guilty plea is indicated," the minister said.

However, no discounted sentence will be given for capital murder or repeat or multiple murder.

In relation to non-capital murder, a 33.3 per cent reduction is available where the defendant indicates to the court, on the first relevant date, that he wishes to plead guilty to an offence.

The bill proposes that where a person is making a plea deal, he must submit a written basis for his plea.