Legitimacy, Courts and State-Induced Guilty Pleas in Britain
In the rhetoric of the common law, the adversarial system placed the burden of proof on the State to be discharged without the compelled assistance of the accused. A guilty plea - which was deemed to be an admission of each and every element of the offence charged enabling a court to move directly to sentencing - had attached to it formal conditions which paid tribute to the trial model: it had to be unequivocal, free from duress and personal to the defendant. These conditions were also necessary because an appeal against conviction in such circumstances was practically ruled out. Although guilty pleas have always been allowed at common law, placing institutional pressures on defendants to plead guilty has to be reconciled with these formal conditions.
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