Plea before venue

"plea before venue" was aimed at reducing the number of cases magistrates felt it necessary to send to the crown court.

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Introduced in 1997, 'plea before venue' was aimed at reducing the number of cases magistrates felt it necessary to send to the Crown Court.

In either-way offences the procedure known as 'plea before venue' takes place in the Magistrates' Court. The defendant is asked to indicate how they intend to plead to each of the charges. If a guilty plea is entered then the Magistrates' Court goes on to consider sentence. The magistrates can still, despite the guilty plea, decide to commit the defendant to the Crown Court for sentencing.  This is because the Crown Court have the power to impose a heavier sentence.

If the magistrates decide that they can hear the case the defendant has the right to elect trial by jury in the Crown Court.

The intention was that magistrates could take account of an early guilty plea and the effects of this on sentence discounts, this would mean they could retain more such cases for sentencing.

However, 'plea before venue' did not have this effect and in fact the immediate effect was to increase the overall proportion of either way cases which magistrates sent to the Crown Court for trial or sentence.

 

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