Changing a guilty plea - a case study
Changing a Guilty plea is not an easy exercise. The Court of Appeal has stated on a number of occasions that ‘the cases must be comparatively rare where it would be proper to allow a change of plea’ (R -v- Mutford Justices ex parte Harber  2 QB 55). It is therefore crucial that an application to vacate a plea must be meticulously prepared and presented by Counsel with considerable experience. It may therefore be of some use to see a recent example of a successful vacation of plea to demonstrate how such an application should be approached and conducted:
AB stood accused of 8 counts of sexual assault; he was before the Snaresbrook Crown Court and was expecting his case to be contested by his legal team. During the preparation of his case AB had a number of conferences with his solicitors and barrister and had always told them that he wanted to plead Not Guilty. Eventually AB’s legal representatives advised him to plead Guilty but AB refused to do so as he was adamant that he had not committed the offences. There was a mention hearing at the Snaresbrook Crown Court in the week prior to the trial taking place; AB was required to attend. At that hearing AB’s barrister took him into a conference room and pressured him to change his plea. AB was very upset at the advice and the manner in which it was delivered. He felt that as a result of the advice that he was given he had no choice but to plead guilty despite the fact that he did not truly believe that he was guilty. Due to the pressure that he had been subjected to, he told his Barrister that he would plead Guilty. He agreed to sign a piece of paper to say that he was pleading guilty to the offences because he had committed them and that he should not plead Guilty unless he accepted this. The matter was called into Court and Guilty pleas were entered. The matter was then adjourned for the preparation of pre-sentence reports.
When AB got home from Court he felt that he should not have pleaded guilty and that he had been pressured into his plea. As a result of this he contacted Quentin Hunt through www.bestcriminaldefencebarrister.co.uk. Quentin spoke to him initially on the telephone and was able to give him free, no obligation on the spot advice. AB was advised to collect as much documentation as he could and a conference was arranged with Mr Hunt at his Chambers in London. At the conference AB was advised as to the case which he had to meet, the tests for vacating a Guilty plea and how the facts of his case would be applicable to the law. AB was able to make an informed decision about whether he wanted to vacate his plea and Quentin was able to formulate an action plan as to how the case would be taken forward. At the end of the conference AB was given a number of tasks to fulfil in order to support the application.
Following the conference Quentin wrote to the Prosecution, Court and Probation services stating AB’s intention to vacate his guilty plea. He also wrote to AB’s former solicitors and took receipt of all paperwork and information that they held. He was then able to draft a formal Criminal Procedure Rules compliant application to vacate the plea as well as a skeleton argument in support.
A court hearing was held at Snaresbrook Crown Court to give directions towards an application to vacate the plea. At this hearing the Prosecution indicated that they opposed the application and would be calling AB’s previous Barrister as a witness in opposing the application.
After the Court hearing Quentin and AB formulated an action plan to put him in the best position possible, this included the collection of evidence and the speaking to a number of witnesses who would be able to assist. A further conference was held at Quentin’s chambers prior to the hearing to make sure that the application was properly prepared and that AB and his witnesses were ready to give evidence.
On the morning of the hearing Quentin met AB two hours prior to the start and final preparations were made. The hearing proceeded and the Prosecution called AB’s previous Barrister to give evidence against the application. Quentin cross examined the Barrister at some length about the circumstances of the plea and the state of mind of AB, it was suggested that AB was put under undue pressure. Evidence was then called on behalf of the application including the evidence of AB himself. After evidence had been called legal submissions were made, the prosecution made submissions that the application should not be made and Quentin made forceful submissions that the plea should be vacated.
AB stated that the service provided by Quentin in the vacation of the plea was “first class” and that the result was “fantastic”. The case continues.
If you find yourself in a position where you have pleaded Guilty to a crime that you have not committed you need to seek expert legal advice as soon as possible. Vacation of a Guilty plea is a specialist legal skill of which Quentin has a wealth of experience and an unequalled track record. For further information please see a previous blog post on the law in respect of the vacation of a plea and contact Quentin for a confidential no obligation conversation.
The judge retired to consider and delivered a verdict. The Court accepted the evidence and submissions put forward on behalf of AB. The judge allowed all Guilty pleas to be vacated and substituted them for Not Guilty pleas. Directions were given for a new trial and a new trial date was fixed for later in the year at a date convenient to all parties.
POSTED: Wednesday, June 3, 2015