How to plead ‘Guilty’ by mobile phone

Over 500,000 people per annum are charged with committing summary only road traffic offences (ie matters triable only in the Magistrates’ Courts). The government’s new ‘Make a Plea’ service, which is being rolled out across the country this month, will give those accused of committing selected minor road traffic offences the option of pleading ‘Guilty’ using the government’s new secure website. After a successful pilot in Manchester, in which over a third of people used the new service, the government’s initiative is set to give the public a new and simpler alternative method to tender a ‘Guilty’ plea.

The Make a Plea scheme is intended to save time and money in relation to relatively minor road traffic allegations. Therefore, it will not affect those charged with more serious offences. However, for those facing prosecution for selected minor matters such as speeding, driving without a license, or, failing to notify the driver, the new scheme offers the public a choice. What are the options?

Pleading ‘Guilty’ at Court

You should still be able to attend court to tender a ‘Guilty’ plea if you so choose. However, for a relatively minor matter which, in all probability, is going to be dealt with by a financial penalty and / or the imposition of penalty points, why would anyone wish to go to court? Often minor road traffic offences occur when one is away from one’s home town. They are usually dealt with in the court covering the area in which the offence was committed. Therefore, pleading ‘Guilty’ without attending enables one to save time and the effort involved in travelling to court.

The Written ‘Guilty’ Plea

One often has the option of pleading ‘Guilty’ by post. Again, this method saves time and inconvenience. One can set out one’s mitigation (those factors one asks the court to take into account in your favour before sentencing) in writing. One is normally not given the option of a written ‘Guilty’ plea when the court is considering disqualification from driving. If a ‘Guilty’ plea had been tendered in writing and the court was considering disqualification it would normally require the attendance of the offender prior to sentencing. Therefore, up until now, for minor matters the written ‘Guilty’ plea has often proved to be the most suitable option.

The Make a Plea Scheme

Finally, the option of plea by mobile phone, or tablet or laptop, or, other suitable device, will become available across the country in certain cases. If you are sure you wish to tender a ‘Guilty’ plea why not consider this option? It is even more convenient, for the majority of us who have access to appropriate technology, and quicker than a written ‘Guilty’ plea. All ‘Guilty’ pleas involve at least the potential for a costs order to be made against the offender. Since we are told the new scheme will save taxpayers’ money why shouldn’t those tendering ‘Guilty’ pleas under the new scheme expect credit, in the form of an even lower costs order, than those pleading ‘Guilty’ by post? Those taking this option will certainly obtain maximum credit for an early ‘Guilty’ plea. Therefore, the new scheme does seem to afford the public a more convenient and cheaper method of tendering ‘Guilty’ pleas which should be welcomed by all those using the court system. Doubtless the full conditions of the new scheme will become apparent as it is rolled out across the country.

Sunil is an independent road traffic barrister clerked by ShenSmith Barristers.  He has over 25 years of experience in court room advocacy and in providing expert legal advice.
Image Credits:
Ray Forster