Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Confess at Once or Face Longer in Jail, Crooks Told

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Confess at Once or Face Longer in Jail, Crooks Told

Article excerpt

Byline: Martin Bentham Home Affairs Editor

CRIMINALS who fail to admit their guilt at the first opportunity will be forced to spend longer in prison, under new Metropolitan Police proposals put before the Government's sentencing advisers.

Under the plans, only those offenders who confess while at the police station will receive the maximum one third "discount" off their jail term now allowed under sentencing rules.

Others who delay pleading guilty until the day they are facing trial will receive a much lower reduction, serving longer in prison before they become eligible for release.

The aim of the reform is to stop wasting police and prosecutors' time -- and taxpayers' money.

Much time, effort and money goes into preparing paperwork for trials which then fail to take place when the offender pleads guilty at the last minute.

About 70 per cent of scheduled trials in London are called off for this reason, while victims and witnesses are forced to make pointless trips to court and jurors are kept waiting, sometimes for days, for cases to be heard.

A sliding scale of discounts is already meant to apply, but police say that many offenders still receive the maximum cut in their sentence regardless of when they admit their guilt.

It means offenders have no incentive to confess quickly, with some deliberately delaying the guilty plea in the hope that the case against them might collapse on a technicality.

The Met's deputy commissioner, Tim Godwin, has now asked the Government's Sentencing Council to introduce a new system, so that the largest discounts are given to offenders who admit their guilt at the police station.

Mr Godwin said the change would reduce the anxiety faced by victims and witnesses while cutting costs and rewarding offenders who did not cause delays.

"A person who indicates their guilt or agrees the fact at the police station is the one who is saving victims a lot of grief and stress and at the same saving taxpayers a lot of money, and they are the ones who should get the maximum discount," he said.

"But at the moment, the guilty plea discount is being applied equally when a person pleads guilty at the start of their trial. …

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