CRG 51/13-14: Negotiating guilty pleas: an empirical analysis

Across Australian criminal jurisdictions, the most frequent method of case finalisation is not a contested trial, but through the accused entering a plea of guilty. Within this context, negotiated guilty pleas have taken on a more prominent and significant role in the delivery of modern day ‘justice’. This report provides an empirical account of current plea negotiation practices in the state of Victoria, including documenting the frequency of plea negotiations, identifying the different forms of plea negotiation and common resolution outcomes, and discussing the processes involved in reaching an agreement.

The study involved the development of a dataset of negotiated guilty pleas through a comprehensive mixed qualitative and quantitative analysis of Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) de-identified case files that had resolved by guilty pleas; conducting 48 qualitative, in-depth interviews with police prosecutors, Office of Public Prosecutions (OPP) solicitors, Crown prosecutors, defence practitioners (VLA employees and those in private practice) and judicial officers; as well as carrying out consultations with key legal stakeholders.