CJI's Chief inspector has called for improvements in how the early guilty plea process is managed
Brendan McGuigan has called for more to be done to fast track individuals who fully admit their guilt at the earliest opportunity through the criminal justice process. View report page
The recommendation was made as part of CJI's inspection on the use of early guilty pleas within the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland.
“The use of early guilty pleas is a sensitive matter and public perception is that sentencing is often too lenient and that lenience often works in favour of the offender rather than providing justice for victims,” said Brendan McGuigan.
“However, this inspection revealed there was increased public support for sentence reductions if an early guilty plea is entered at the earliest point, where the benefits both emotional and economic are clearly tangible as opposed to a guilty plea made at the court door or after a trial has started." he said.
To facilitate this development, CJI has urged the Department of Justice to deliver and oversee the development of a clear early guilty plea scheme for both the Magistrates’ and Crown Courts in Northern Ireland. This work would be supported by the reform of existing committal procedures, case management and improvements in the collection and sharing of data.
The Chief Inspector indicated that reform of the criminal legal aid fee structure in Northern Ireland would also be beneficial.