Criminal Judges

Criminal Judges

Legitimacy, Courts and State-Induced Guilty Pleas in Britain

Mike McConville and Luke Marsh

Against a backdrop of a dysfunctional criminal justice system, the authors bring an avalanche of legal and empirical material to question the legitimacy of the relationship between judges, lawyers, politicians and defendants in modern Britain. Examining existing legal structures and court practices through the lens of what used to be called ‘plea bargaining’ the authors provide a graphic picture of why case disposals through enforced guilty pleas promote injustice, feed discrimination and skew the judicial function. This is the most comprehensive examination to date of case disposition methods in England, Wales and Scotland., underpinned by a new socio-legal theory on the criminal process. Criminal Judges is sure to provoke debate on the forces which drive the criminal justice process and will therefore be of great interest to all those concerned about the future of criminal justice policies and practices. It will appeal to academics, researchers, policy advisors and practitioners of criminal law.

Chapter 8: Conclusion

Mike McConville and Luke Marsh

Subjects: law - academic, criminal law and justice


The State-induced guilty plea process threatens the legitimacy of courts as institutions because, in contrast to the case of strikes, public disorders and homeless claimants, its practices cannot be characterised as arising out of a 'one-off ' political or social 'crisis' to be responded to, however irregularly, before returning to normalcy. Because the process of State-induced guilty pleas is intended to replace in whole or part the promise of adversary justice, it challenges the foundations on which the claim of legitimacy of criminal courts has traditionally rested. Legitimacy and rationality are placed at risk when courts consciously promote trial-avoidance mechanisms as fair and just when they are aware that there are good reasons for their rejection.

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