“I didn’t do it, but I’ll plead guilty anyway”
These situations arise commonly where a client prefers to avoid a costly hearing, or publicity, or a perceived chance of conviction and larger penalty.
As a solicitor, we have a duty to both the Court, and to our clients. These duties can conflict, and in such situations, the overwhelming duty will be to the Court first, and client second.
A decision in 1995 (R v Meissner) confirmed that a person may plead guilty, even if they believe they are not. However, this plea must be entered by a person of full age, sound mind, in open Court and in an exercise of free choice. They need to fully understand that entering this plea is an admission of all the elements of the offence.
A lawyer after being told by the client that he did not commit the offence, but wants to plead guilty, ultimately has two choices. Either the solicitor decides that it is not appropriate to act, and withdraws from the matter, or a clear set of instructions are obtained from the client confirming the plea may satisfy the solicitor that it is appropriate to act.
The problem that arises is what can you possibly say in sentencing? You can’t make representations to Police about the incident, can’t call evidence from the client and you cannot make any submissions on remorse or contrition.
It is an unfortunate reality, that when a client is faced with “just getting it done and over with” or proceeding with an expensive defended hearing with no guarantee of success, the easier option is sometimes taken.
In the next article “I did it but plead Not Guilty” we cover the other ethical situation of a client admitting the offence, but wanting to plead not guilty.
If you have any questions you would like answered either confidentially or via this medium, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
This is intended for general information and does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Formal legal advice should be sought.