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CJB238

Author Lily Trimboli
Published August 2021
Report Type Crime and Justice Bulletin No. CJB238
Subject Evaluation reports; Court processes and delay
Keywords early guilty pleas, process evaluation, charge certification, criminal case conferencing, continuous legal representation, sentencing discounts, court delay

Summary

Background

The Early Appropriate Guilty Plea (EAGP) reform program was introduced by the NSW Government on 30 April 2018 to target the systemic issues in the criminal justice system that obstruct the entry of guilty pleas early in the court process and contribute to unnecessary delays in the District Court. This major system-wide reform program has six key elements: (1) the early disclosure of the brief of evidence; (2) charge certification; (3) mandatory criminal case conferencing; (4) continuity of legal representation; (5) statutory sentence discounts; and, (6) Local Court case management.

To determine whether the EAGP reform program is being implemented as planned and which, if any, of the reform elements are critical to achieving the expected outcomes, semi-structured interviews were conducted between 22 June and 30 July 2020 with 35 stakeholders involved in various elements of the EAGP program’s implementation.

Key findings

Stakeholders report that the following aspects of the reforms are delivered as intended:
• prosecutors can determine the most appropriate charge(s) based on the briefs of evidence (100% of 5 relevant stakeholders);
• charges are certified by senior prosecutors (100% of 26 relevant stakeholders);
• mandatory criminal case conferences occur and conference certificates are filed with the court (100% of 26 and 20 relevant stakeholders, respectively); and
• sentence discounts are applied strictly to the timing of the guilty plea (100% of 21 relevant stakeholders).

Some aspects of the EAGP reform program are only partially delivered:
• there are delays in briefs of evidence being served on the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (68% of 28 relevant stakeholders) and in the charge certification process (78% of 23 relevant stakeholders);
• there is not always continuity in legal representation from the service of the brief of evidence to case finalisation (53% of 34 stakeholders); and
• magistrates do not always give accused persons explanations of the Local Court committal process and the sentencing discounts (50% of 16 relevant stakeholders).

Conclusion

Most elements of the EAGP reform program are being implemented as planned. However, further improvements could be made in order to maximise the benefits achieved by the reforms and monitoring of the program’s implementation should continue.