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NCJ Number: 73692 Find in a Library
Title: Maintaining the Good Face of Justice - The Case of Plea-Bargaining (From Essays in Law and Society, P 27-37, 1980, Zenon Bankowski and Geoff Mungham, ed. - See NCJ-73690)
Author(s): C May
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 11
Sponsoring Agency: Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd
Boston, MA 02108
Sale Source: Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd
9 Park Street
Boston, MA 02108
United States of America
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article contends that plea bargaining in the English Crown Court threatens the image of the justice system as fair and open to public scrutiny.
Abstract: Although social research has been dominated by the notion of a dichotomy between the theoretical and practical aspects of criminal justice, the image of the system as embodying civil liberties may be necessary in sustaining its legitimacy. In terms of the image of criminal justice, the police, the Magistrates' Court, and the Crown Court are not equally important. The police are criticized for exercising their discretion in an arbitrary and often coercive manner, while the rapid turnover of cases and lack of legal expertise in the Magistrates' Court robs its proceedings of the dignity and deliberation associated with the ideal image of justice. A recent attack on the Crown Court for its frequent use of plea bargaining met with hostile reactions from legal authorities. Because this court handles indictable offenses, offers a jury trial, and considers appeals against injustice from the Magistrates' Court, any failings have serious implications for the entire system. Plea bargaining, when defendants agree to plead guilty in return for a lighter sentence, is at variance with the official image of the Crown Court proceedings, although it does reduce the Court's heavy workload and supports police decisions. Defendants are pressured into plea bargaining by the difficulties in challenging police evidence in court, the judicial policy of giving defendants who plead guilty prior to trial a lighter sentence, and the tight-knit network of barristers and judges. Blatant cases of plea bargaining have reached the Court of Appeals, which has condemned the practice but has explained it in terms of individual failures. The Appeal Court, however, has asserted the primacy of rules, thus denying that intentions have any place in criminal justice. The Appeal Court also has supported the relationship between the appearance and substance of justice by not sustaining a conviction that was obtained by unfair means, even though the decision was probably correct. The Appeal Court is concerned that the layman have a favorable image of the Crown Court, but its responses to plea bargaining have not affected the institutional features of the criminal justice system which are the root of the problem. Footnotes and a bibliography of 15 references and several cases accompany the article.
Index Term(s): Accountability; Equal Protection; Great Britain/United Kingdom; Personal two-way radios
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