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U.S.-Style Plea Bargaining for Young Defendants Spreads in England, Wales

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A report by the NGO Fair Trials offers anecdotal evidence that young prisoners in England and Wales are being rushed into guilty pleas under US-style bargaining arrangements that, despite not being an official part of the system in either country, are becoming widespread, reports Daniel Boffey for The Guardian. Judicial sentencing guidelines suggest those who plead guilty at the earliest hearing over other crimes may be given a reduction of up to a third of their sentence.

Of the 128 cases referred to the court of appeal as potential miscarriages of justice since 2012, approximately 50 cases involved defendants who initially pleaded guilty. Concerns have been raised that youth defendants are being pushed to admit guilt to crimes they did not commit. Some defendants claimed to be given just 30 minutes to decide, with no legal process to ensure that they understand their rights. There is also no requirement on judges to thoroughly question a defendant to check that they have grasped the implications of pleading guilty before the plea is accepted.

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