'Fortunately We in Victoria Are Not in That UK Situation': Australian and United Kingdom Perspectives on Plea Bargaining Reform

Asher Flynn

Abstract


The polarisation between consistency, controls and the unscrutinised discretionary powers held by criminal justice agencies is a complex issue that transcends jurisdictions. In the Australian State of Victoria, this conflict is particularly evident in the prosecutor’s decision-making powers in the plea bargaining process, because these powers are not subject to scrutiny and the decisions made under them are not transparent. Furthermore, plea bargaining itself is a non-formalised and unscrutinised method of case resolution. While the use of discretion is an important component of prosecutorial work, it is the potentially individualised and idiosyncratic nature of unscrutinised discretionary decisions that results in plea bargaining and prosecutorial decision-making in Victoria giving rise to perceptions of inappropriateness and misconduct. Drawing upon the voices of Victorian and United Kingdom legal professionals, this article critically analyses the controls placed on United Kingdom prosecutors by the Attorney General’s Guidelines on the Acceptance of Pleas and the Prosecutor’s Role in the Sentencing Exercise 2009 (UK), and considers whether similar guidelines could be implemented in Victoria to redress problems surrounding the idiosyncratic nature of prosecutorial decision-making in plea bargaining. By offering a unique insight into the perspectives of those involved in plea bargaining, this article explores the benefits of implementing a transparent and scrutinised control on prosecutorial discretion in plea bargaining, and considers whether this would in turn offer greater safeguards, consistency and transparency of prosecutorial decision-making in Victoria.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.21153/dlr2011vol16no2art107

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