How do you know if you should say anything after you’ve pleaded Guilty?
Many self-represented people who plead Guilty in the Magistrates Court don’t know how to mitigate. Because they don’t know what to say, the get harsher sentences than they probably should.
If you go to your local magistrates’ court, you’ll see what I mean. There will be a queue of ordinary people who’ve made a mistake. Maybe they’ve had one too many before they got behind the steering wheel of a car, or maybe they were driving too fast.
They’re deeply embarrassed and don’t want to let anyone know that they’re a defendant at the magistrates’ court. They just want to take what’s ever coming and get out of there.
But imagine if there was something someone could say that would take some of the sting out of your sentence?
What if you were able to keep your driving licence or pay a fine – instead of getting a driving ban and / or community service – or even worse?
Before you race out of court, maybe you could say something to the magistrates that might make a great deal of difference to your sentence..
The problem for most self-represented defendants is that they don’t know what to say
Mitigation is an art and a science – and it’s much more than handing up a stack of character references.
Here’s how Black’s Law Dictionary defines mitigation:
“A reduction in punishment due to “mitigating circumstances” that reduce the criminal’s level of culpability”.
What are “mitigating circumstances”?
“A fact or situation that does not justify or excuse a wrongful act or offence but that reduces the degree of culpability and thus may reduce the punishment. A fact or situation that does not bear on the question of a defendant’s guilt but that is considered by the court in imposing punishment and especially in lessening the severity of a sentence”
How do you mitigate?
The secret is to look at the case against you and then weigh that up in light of the Sentencing Guidelines for the offence.
But weighing up the case against the Sentencing Guidelines can be a problem for may self-represented people because they are not able to objectively weigh up what they have done. Remember the old saying, “A wo/man who acts as their own lawyer has a fool for a client”? The reason for this is that we don’t always see our behaviour in the same way that others do.
While you can get your Aunt, Brother, friend – or even your Property lawyer to help you, it’s better to have someone with experience of mitigation run through it with you. The reason is because as qualified Criminal barristers, we’ll know how to find mitigating circumstances – and we can also tell the difference between mitigation, special reasons and when you should be pleading Not Guilty. Nobody wants to land themselves in hot water and a Criminal barrister will know about damage limitation in the magistrates court.
My simple tip
Look for your mitigation before you step foot into court. Find a qualified direct access Criminal barrister to help you present your best possible case for the best possible result. This will help you avoid the pain of an unnecessary harsh sentence – and save you money and time in the long run.