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Thursday, 19 March 2009

Changing plea

I remember many moons ago when I first encountered this then-strange phenomenon, when an accused person asked to withdraw their plea of guilty. I had never heard of it, and my instinctive reaction was to insist it wasn't possible. Fortunately, rather than expose my ignorance, I kept quiet and went away to investigate.

Now that I think about it, there is a certain logic to it. If a person pleads not guilty and then wants to plead guilty, there is never any quibble. If that can happen, then logically so can the reverse. Of course, for various reasons, courts are loath to let people say "I'm guilty" and then change their mind: witnesses fade away; the search for evidence stops; complainants relax and begin the sometimes-necessary process of forgetting or suppressing memories of the incident. But, in appropriate cases it can occur. Generally, it should only happen when the plea didn't truly reflect that the defendant realised their guilt. That might happen because:

  • they were poorly advised

  • they were misled or deceived

  • there was no admissible evidence they committed the crime alleged

  • they didn't mean to plead guilty (It's hard to imagine how someone might accidentally say, "Yeah, I did it", but apparently it happens.)


In the event you encounter such an application, this template might help your response.

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