View Full Version : Plea change point of law

03-Dec-13, 10:09
No second chance for the accused wanting cases over and done with

UNREPRESENTED people who plead guilty simply to get their criminal cases over and done with, won’t get the chance to change their plea at a later date when they have a solicitor.
The legal position was clarified at Wick Sheriff Court recently, when a local woman was refused permission to reverse an earlier plea of guilty to disorderly conduct. Naomi Attwood, 34, had not been legally represented at the earlier hearing.
Her request was opposed by fiscal depute David Barclay, who said that the initial plea of guilty had been “an explicit one”. He said he would have understood had the change centred on some legal or technical qualification and not based on a matter of convenience.
Attwood’s solicitor, Fiona MacDonald, felt that as the accused was now represented, she should have the opportunity to withdraw and appealed to the sheriff to exercise discretion.
However, after a short break to ascertain the legal position, Sheriff Andrew Berry said that a Court of Appeal ruling prevented a guilty plea being withdrawn on the grounds it was a matter of convenience.
He referred to case law and a ruling by Lord Cullen, stating that the court system was not to be “manipulated for the benefit of people who had pleaded guilty” and there could be no question of an accused being allowed to withdraw a plea for his or her convenience, a facility which would “undermine the justice system”.
Sheriff Berry rejected the change motion, stressing that the decision was not one at his discretion but a direct instruction from the Appeal Court in 1997.
Attwood, of Millburn Court, Inverness, admits threatening or abusive behaviour at a house in Glamis Road, Wick, where she was staying on September 27. She shouted and swore at a council official who had called on official business. The case was continued, until January 10, pending the outcome of another charge she is facing at Inverness Sheriff Court.