Press Release: Publication of Guidelines on Reduction in Sentences for Guilty Pleas
The inter-agency Sentencing Advisory Panel (“Panel”) has published the Guidelines on Reduction in Sentences for Guilty Pleas (“PG Guidelines”). Parties may raise the PG Guidelines in their submissions to the court from 1 October 2023.
The PG Guidelines are intended to encourage accused persons who wish to plead guilty to do so as early in the court process as possible. There are significant benefits to this, especially for victims. An early guilty plea by an accused person allows victims to find closure sooner, and spares victims and witnesses the need to prepare for a trial and to testify in court. It also allows for a faster resolution of cases.
The PG Guidelines will:
(a) Assist accused persons in making decisions in criminal proceedings, and defence counsel in advising their clients.
(b) Serve as a reference point for judges in passing sentences in criminal cases. The PG Guidelines are not binding on the courts, and judges may decide not to apply the guidelines in specific cases, such as where it would be contrary to the public interest to do so.
(c) Guide the prosecution and defence in their sentencing submissions.
Currently, accused persons already receive a reduction in sentence, in appropriate cases, if they plead guilty. The PG Guidelines aim to provide greater consistency, clarity and transparency to this existing practice, by setting out clearly the ranges of reduction in sentence that a court may consider granting based on when an accused person pleads guilty. Other jurisdictions, such as the United Kingdom and Australia, also have similar guidelines.
An overview of the approach in the PG Guidelines is in the Annex. Generally, the earlier the accused person decides to plead guilty, the greater the reduction in sentence that may be applied.
The PG Guidelines are not intended to result in reductions in sentences over and above the existing judicial guidelines or precedents in cases where offenders have pleaded guilty. Sentences also cannot be reduced below any mandatory minimum sentence prescribed in law.
The PG Guidelines are not meant to encourage accused persons, who otherwise wish to claim trial, to plead guilty. Every accused person has the right to assert his innocence and to claim trial, and may seek legal advice on whether to plead guilty.
The PG Guidelines can be accessed at link.
SENTENCING ADVISORY PANEL
15 AUGUST 2023