IT'S A multi-faceted concept to explore, the situation that a higher percentage of people in court are being convicted, but coinciding with the lowest number going through court nationwide -- down 40 per cent since 2009. Fewer people end up in court, but if you do, you're pretty much toast, it seems.
If you take that on face value then there's a basic satisfaction to be gained from that, an ideal that miscreants are being caught and punished. But lawyers argue that the 80 per cent-plus conviction rate indicates many people are pleading guilty, making the conviction rate too high.
Okay, so people are pleading guilty. One could argue that if you're guilty of a crime you should say so, and accept your punishment, but there are degrees to this. You might not be guilty at all, but what is more likely is you are guilty of something, but not necessarily of everything the police have put together as a prosecution case.
I don't think any of us approve of criminals who know how to work the system, including the age-old fundamental that you are innocent until proven guilty.
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There are those who know that proving guilt is going to be difficult, maybe next to impossible, and so they can sit back and invoke that other basic principle -- the right of silence -- while the prosecution sweats it out with what they have and don't have.
However, I am not a fan of situations where defendants feel they have to defend themselves in some bungling fashion, or find themselves in a plea-bargaining situation where the charges are manifestly too high, and where the risk becomes enormous if a defendant opts for not guilty and puts the justice system through a trial. The pressure to get a guilty plea in court must be enormous, because a not-guilty situation can take months, sometimes a year, to process.
It's easy for a white-collar person, with the ability to hire a lawyer dedicated to their cause, to confidently say: that's not what happened, and I'm going to put a suit on and fight that in court. But others might struggle, feeling partly guilty of something and ready for the easy way out -- guilty to a lesser charge to speed up the process.
That's the trouble with a "system". Everyone works it. But is it justice?