In matters being investigated by the police or before the criminal courts it is sometimes the case that a simple act of contrition, genuinely felt and communicated, can alter a case outcome significantly.
For example, a timely admission and expression of sorrow can make the difference between a formal resolution, such as caution or charge or persuade the police to consider an out of court community resolution.
Credit for your guilty plea will attract the automatic discount on sentence, but it is a demonstration of genuine regret and remorse that may make all the difference.
Remorse might open the door to restorative justice
Restorative justice is now a popular out of court disposal. Such a resolution is preferable to almost all other outcomes when guilt is not in doubt. Research shows that the process can benefit both the victim and the offender.
Other out of court disposals such as driver awareness courses can also have an impact on an offender. This will particularly be the case where a defendant is willing to address their behaviour. Few participants will leave the course undisturbed by the graphic images of a child hit by a speeding vehicle.
In court, it can sway a bench in some cases to impose a more lenient punishment, so because of this we always work with clients to ensure mitigation is advanced adequately at all stages.
Of course, sorry in itself might not mean much, what are you sorry for? Is it for being caught? Or is it because you find yourself before a court? Could it be more than that and therefore does it amount to genuine remorse?
Genuine remorse and sentencing guidelines
The Oxford English Dictionary defines remorse as being:
‘A feeling of compunction, or of deep regret and repentance for a sin or wrong committed.’
A court will, however, be looking only for genuine remorse, and it is far from being a scientific exercise.
What does the Sentencing Council have to say?
The Sentencing Council commented on this as follows:
“This factor appears in all Sentencing Council guidelines and is one that sentencers are adept at assessing. Sentencers sitting in court on a daily basis are alive to the ease with which ‘sorry’ can be said but not meant. Evidence obtained during the course of interviews with judges (during the consultation process) confirmed the way in which judges carry out this assessment; often the judges used phrases in conversation with us such as ‘genuinely remorseful’, ‘genuine remorse’ and ‘true remorse’. This confirms the Council’s view that the consideration of remorse is nuanced, and that all the circumstances of the case will be considered by the sentencing in deciding whether any expressed remorse is in fact genuine.”
Not just credit for your guilty plea
In a recent lecture, a High Court Judge offered up these examples to illustrate genuine remorse:
• Deliberate withdrawal from an on-going criminal enterprise.
• Removing oneself from criminal associates or the sources of temptation.
• Behaviour immediately after the offence such as obtaining medical aid.
• Voluntary surrender and confession to the police.
• Efforts to reform by way of, e.g. drug-rehabilitation or alcohol withdrawal programmes.
• Return to education.
• Assistance to the authorities in combating crime.
• Voluntary restitution, payment of compensation without order from the court or restoring damaged property.
Less objective examples (but commonly seen) include:
• Expressions of remorse in police interviews after arrest.
• The impression of genuine remorse given to a probation officer, psychiatrist or psychologist when being interviewed for the purpose of preparing a report for the court before sentencing.
• Letters of apology written by offenders to victims or the court
How can we assist? Contact a criminal defence lawyer now.
It is our job when representing clients to ensure that the best case is put forward. You will want this to go beyond the usual mitigation offered by the credit for your guilty plea. This should involve other aspects of your character that might shine a light on your true self.
People make mistakes, sometimes serious ones, but rarely does that alone define the real person. We believe that carefully presented mitigation makes a real difference to the outcome of criminal cases.
We are experienced in approaching family, friends, employers and other community figures for reference letters on your behalf. The information that we request will make sure we build on the credit for your guilty plea because of this experience.
Please contact your nearest office here or alternatively use the contact form below.