Examines factors associated with early, late, and not guilty pleas in the District Court of NSW.
There are well established practical, financial and emotional benefits of obtaining guilty pleas early in criminal proceedings. While criminal proceedings in NSW are most commonly resolved by a guilty plea (e.g., in 2012, 82% of criminal matters proved in the District Court of NSW were resolved via a guilty plea), approximately one third of guilty pleas are not submitted until after the matter has been committed for trial (NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics & Research, 2012). These late guilty pleas typically involve at least three Local Court appearances prior to committal (including the committal hearing itself) and two appearances in the District Court (including the arraignment and sentence hearing) before being finalised. When a guilty plea is received late (e.g., on the first day of trial), it is likely that many hours of victim, witness, juror, court, police, and legal practitioner time will have gone to waste. The issue of late guilty pleas has been an ongoing concern for government, legal practitioners and courts for many years in NSW. In 2013, at the direction of the Attorney General, the NSW Law Reform Commission commenced a review into encouraging appropriate early guilty pleas. A consultation paper was released in November 2013 with the purpose of generating discussion on what models could be adopted by NSW to improve the rate of appropriate early guilty pleas.