Pressures to plead guilty or playing the system? An exploration of the causes of cracked trials

Alge, Daniele (2009) Pressures to plead guilty or playing the system? An exploration of the causes of cracked trials. Doctoral thesis, University of Manchester.

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Abstract

This thesis is an empirical exploration of cracked trials at Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court. Cracked trials are cases which are listed for trial but on the day they are due to be tried are disposed of in some other way. The thesis presents quantitative and qualitative data extracted from prosecution case files, as well as interviews with legal professionals, to examine the reasons for cracked trials, focusing on those trials which crack as a result of a late guilty plea. The data are analysed in order to explore the features of cracked trials, and the defence lawyer’s role in late guilty pleas (identified as significant by previous studies) is also examined.

The existing literature has identified plea bargaining as a significant cause of late guilty pleas; the extent to which this was a feature within the sampled cases is assessed, and the nature of the plea bargains which were present in the data is explored. It is argued that the data demonstrate that plea bargaining played a key role in those cases which cracked as a result of a late guilty plea and that several types of plea bargain were prevalent within the sample.

In light of these findings, the thesis analyses the reasons for the criminal justice system’s reluctance to acknowledge the role of plea bargaining in cracked trials (despite some recent formalisation of plea bargaining itself), and examines the extent to which grounds for policy and academic objections to plea bargaining and cracked trials were evidenced in the data collected. The thesis then considers whether either policy objections (that cracked trials represent defendants ‘playing the system’) or academic objections, (that plea bargains create pressure on defendants to plead guilty, and cracked trials are a manifestation of that pressure) are necessarily true, and whether plea bargaining could alternatively be viewed as a legitimate consensual or contractual exchange of concessions.

The thesis concludes with the argument that a contradictory and hypocritical approach to plea bargaining has created a situation whereby the significance of plea bargaining is often ignored by a criminal justice system which has come to rely upon it. It is argued that the policies pursued in an attempt to reduce cracked trials are therefore flawed in their failure to acknowledge that cracked trials are inextricably bound together with plea bargaining.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Plea bargaining; cracked trials; guilty pleas
Subjects: Law and criminal justice > Criminal justice
Law and criminal justice > Law
Depositing User: Daniele Alge
Date Deposited: 06 Jun 2016 09:48
Last Modified: 09 Jun 2017 11:13
URI: http://repository.uwl.ac.uk/id/eprint/2367

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