In the Media

Plea bargain move

PUBLISHED July 28, 2006

Defence solicitors will be able to negotiate plea bargain packages for their clients under proposals in the Attorney-General?s fraud review, published this week.

The review proposes a formal system for reduced sentences in return for a guilty plea, an offer of compensation for the victim, and an agreement on director disqualification.

Any deal made with the prosecution would be subject to the court?s approval. Lord Goldsmith also hinted that ?it may also be time to look more broadly at plea bargaining in other areas of the law?.

The report proposes a new financial court jurisdiction, staffed by specially trained judges. This ?virtual? court would sit in existing courtrooms, drawing judges from the High Court as well as the Crown Court.

A National Fraud Strategic Authority would also be set up, while a national lead police force would act as a centre of excellence.

The maximum sentence for fraud would be raised four years to 14 years.

Lord Goldsmith said the government will still bring ?a stand-alone Bill? to limit the use of jury trials in ?certain complex fraud cases?.

Robin Booth, a fraud law specialist at London firm Burton Copeland, said the system had been ?crying out? for the review. He added: ?Plea bargaining is an idea whose time has come. But there will be a whole range of new skills for lawyers to acquire.?

A consultation will run until 27 October.