Plead in Haste, Regret at Leisure
It should go without saying that no plea ought to be entered in any criminal case unless and until the case has been appropriately considered.
Regrettably, we see an increasing number of people, who have attended court alone, being pressured into entering a plea without having had the advantage of legal advice.
It is vital in all cases that legal advice is sought as early as possible to ensure the best outcome can be secured.
Many people believe that following a guilty plea, it is a straightforward matter to change their mind and enter a not-guilty plea instead. The reality, however, is that reversing a guilty plea can often be very difficult and requires a carefully crafted legal argument to be presented to the court.
Ordinarily, a court will only set-aside a guilty plea if it can be shown that the plea is equivocal.
The relevant principles have been rehearsed in many cases, but perhaps most famously in P. Foster (Haulage) Ltd v Roberts
Other factors, such as being influenced by a belief only a guilty plea would secure bail, may also result in a plea being judged as equivocal.
In a number of recent cases, a plea has been treated as equivocal where the defendant was not informed of a legal defence that was available to him, resulting in convictions being set-aside.
In Malak  EWCA Crim 1693 a case where the appellant was not informed by his barrister of an available defence the court held:
“We agree with counsel’s description of the oversight as rather fundamental. This was a clear case of an equivocal plea, as [the prosecution] accepts.”
This is an interesting observation by the Court of Appeal as many defendants who enter pleas in the absence of legal advice would have little if any legal knowledge, it suggests that the scope for setting aside a guilty plea may well be broader than many lawyers appreciate.
In appropriate cases, we may also be able to review the advice given by former lawyers to ensure the correctness of any plea.
How can we help?
We ensure we keep up to date with any changes in legislation and case law so that we are always best placed to advise you properly. If you would like to discuss any aspect of your case, please contact our team of criminal defence specialists on: 01376 511819