Here are some things you should know about pleading guilty to a charge in Court:
What does it mean when you plead guilty to a charge?
- When you plead guilty to a charge, you will be considered to have acknowledged that you have committed the offence alleged in the charge and accept that you will be punished for the offence.
What does the process of pleading guilty involve?
- For a Court to accept your plea of guilt and convict you of the charge, you will need to confirm that you understand the nature and consequences of pleading guilty.
- When you plead guilty to a charge, you will attend an open courtroom hearing (sometimes referred to as a Mention) before a Judge and attended by you or your lawyer (if you have engaged one to represent you) and a Prosecuting Officer (e.g. Deputy Public Prosecutor).
Charge and Statement of Facts (SOF)
- The charge and Statement of Facts (SOF) will be read to you in a language which you understand and through an interpreter if necessary.
- You will be asked to confirm that wish to plead guilty to the charge and that you understand the nature and consequences of pleading guilty.
- The Statement of Facts (SOF) will be read to you.
- This contains the material facts relating to the offence and which may describe the nature of your involvement and conduct in committing the offence
- This also contains the facts which the Court will be entitled to take into account in deciding the appropriate sentence to impose
- You will then be asked to admit to the facts as contained in the Statement of Facts:
- If you do not admit to the facts contained in the Statement of Facts, you must inform the Court accordingly
- If you disagree with parts of the Statement of Facts which are material and affect your acknowledgement and acceptance that you have committed the offence alleged, the Court will not accept your plea of guilt
- If so, you will then required to consider whether you wish claim trial to the charge because you wish to continue to dispute the facts in question
- Alternatively, you may inform the Court if you are willing to concede and accept the facts as contained in the Statement of Facts
- If you completely agree and accept the facts contained in the Statement of Facts, the Court will record your plea of guilt and convict you on the charge.
- After you have been convicted of the charge, the Prosecuting Officer will then inform the Court of any relevant previous convictions which you may have:
- You will need to admit to and confirm that the list of previous convictions as described by the Prosecuting Officer is accurate
- These previous convictions may be considered by the Court in determining the sentence to impose against you
- Before the Court decides on and imposes the sentence against you for the offence you have pleaded guilty to, you will be given an opportunity to inform the Court of any mitigating factors which you may have.
- Mitigating factors are the facts, circumstances and reasons which you feel may justify a more lenient or less serious sentence being imposed against you. These factors can include information and facts relating to your own personal circumstances as well as those relating to the circumstances surrounding how the offence had been committed or occurred.
- You may present the mitigating factors in a written or oral mitigation plea.
- After considering your mitigation plea as well as any arguments made by the Prosecution in relation to the issue of sentencing, the Judge will impose a sentence against you.
- Once a decision on the conviction and sentence has been made by the Judge, either party may generally make an appeal to the High Court in the following situations:
- If you were sentenced after having pleaded guilty and are not satisfied with the Judge’s decision, you may make an appeal to the High Court against the sentence imposed:
- You may make an appeal against sentence if you feel that it was manifestly excessive or not supported by the facts or the law
- The Prosecution may also make an appeal against sentence if it feels that it was manifestly inadequate or not supported by the facts or the law
- You will need to file the formal application for an appeal within 10 days from the date of conviction or sentence.
- The High Court will consider the reasons for any appeal then make a final decision as to whether or not those reasons are of merit and deserving of the appeal being granted.