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Title: A plea of convenience : an examination of the guilty plea in England & Wales
Author: Horne, Juliet Susan
ISNI:       0000 0004 6061 9147
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2016
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Around 90% of criminal convictions in England & Wales are based on guilty pleas. The criminal justice process places deliberate pressures on defendants to plead guilty, undermining the traditional account of the guilty plea as a voluntary and reliable confession. However, despite the acknowledged risk of wrongful conviction, appeal against guilty plea conviction is limited. Through empirical research and theoretical analysis, this thesis examines how the appeal courts and the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) respond to challenges to guilty plea convictions and the accounts of the guilty plea they provide to justify these responses. This entails the analysis of appellate caselaw, alongside an examination of CCRC files in guilty plea cases, an observational study of defence plea advice and hearings, and interviews with lawyers and CCRC staff in order to assess whether the accounts offered by the courts and the CCRC have any foundation in practice. The research reveals that the criminal justice system, as designed and operated, prioritises efficiency over fairness and accuracy in its treatment of guilty pleas (reflecting Nobles and Schiff's analysis of tragic choices in the system). Despite the consequent risk of injustice, the appeal courts resist challenges to guilty plea convictions, relying on unsupportable accounts of the guilty plea as a confession, and of defence lawyers as sheltering defendants from plea pressures. In turn, the CCRC's approach to such cases is characterised by confusion and, ultimately, the prioritisation of efficiency and finality. In response, the thesis proposes an account of the guilty plea as the defendant's prediction of the likely trial outcome (the 'defendant-assessed verdict'). While requiring procedural changes to allow defendants to be supported and informed in assessing the case, this account could provide a justification for guilty plea convictions and offer a framework for assessing challenges to such convictions in the future.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: University of Warwick
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: KD England and Wales