Charge bargaining is the process where the ODPP lawyer and defence lawyer try to work out an appropriate and mutually satisfactory agreement about the criminal charges.
This is often referred to as a resolution or resolving a case.
It is a normal and regular part of all criminal proceedings.
Negotiations can cover a number of different topics, but they commonly involve:
- the particular type of criminal charges to which the accused would be prepared to enter guilty pleas
- the particular facts and circumstances surrounding such charges.
Deciding to resolve a case
DPP prosecutors have specific rules and guidelines to follow in relation to charge bargaining and negotiations.
The DPP must seriously consider any reasonable proposal from an accused to resolve a matter that sufficiently reflects the seriousness and criminality of the offences charged.
The current DPP Prosecution Guidelines on charge bargaining state that:
A proposal should not be entertained by the prosecution unless:
- the charges to be proceeded with bear a reasonable relationship to the nature of the criminal conduct of the accused
- those charges provide an adequate basis for an appropriate sentence in all the circumstances of the case
- there is evidence to support the charges.
For more information, see the DPP Prosecution Guideline on Charge Bargaining.
Why resolve early?
There can be a number of benefits to resolving matters early without proceeding to a trial.
Resolving a case:
- guarantees the accused will be sentenced for their conduct (if a matter proceeds to trial, it cannot be guaranteed they will be found guilty)
- provides an acknowledgment of the offences committed by the accused
- relieves victims and witnesses of the need to give evidence in a trial
- can allow the victim to present a Victim Impact Statement to the court
- entitles the accused to a reduction in sentence on account of pleading guilty
- can provide an incentive to others to also plead at an early stage
- facilitates an earlier resolution to the matter than would normally occur, and reduces potential delays in the prosecution being finalised
- saves the Justice System valuable time and costs and helps reduce the number of matters listed for trial.
The benefits will not be the same to everyone and will depend on the circumstances of the case.