Plea Negotiations in Context

  • Asher Flynn
  • Arie Freiberg
Part of the Palgrave Socio-Legal Studies book series (PSLS)


Plea negotiations remain a surprisingly under-researched activity, with most literature originating from America, England and Canada in the late 1970s to the early 2000s. In Australia, plea negotiations are under-examined, leaving a significant gap in understandings of how plea negotiations operate (in terms of frequency and offence type) and how they may affect justice outcomes. This is concerning in light of recent research which suggests that already marginalised groups, including Indigenous Australians, women and those from low socioeconomic backgrounds, are more vulnerable to being pressured in pre-trial decision-making. This chapter overviews the book’s case file data exploring the characteristics of cases that resolve by plea negotiation. An overview of the criminal justice process and policies related to plea negotiations in Victoria is also presented.


Plea negotiations Plea bargaining Prosecutorial discretion Pre-trial Criminal justice Magistrates’ Court County Court 



  1. Access to Justice Advisory Committee 1994, Access to justice: an action plan (Sackville Report), National Library of Australia, Canberra.Google Scholar
  2. Acker, J & Brody, D 2004, Criminal procedure: a contemporary perspective (2nd edn), Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Massachusetts.Google Scholar
  3. Alschuler, A 1995, ‘Plea bargaining and its history’, in R Abel (ed.), The law and society reader, pp. 138–61, New York University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  4. Atkins, B & Pogrebin, M 1982, ‘Discretionary decision-making in the administration of justice’, in B Atkins & M Pogrebin (eds), The invisible justice system: discretion and the law (2nd edn), pp. 3–16, Anderson Publishing Co., Ohio.Google Scholar
  5. Baldwin, J & McConville, M 1977, Negotiated justice: pressures to plead guilty, Martin Robertson, London.Google Scholar
  6. Bishop, J 1989, Prosecution without trial, Butterworths, Sydney.Google Scholar
  7. Blumberg, A 1967, Criminal justice, Quadrangle Books, Chicago.Google Scholar
  8. Boyd, W 1979, The myth of plea bargaining, bureaucratic justice: police prosecutors and plea bargaining, Sage Publications, Beverly Hills.Google Scholar
  9. Breitel, C D 1960, ‘Controls in criminal law enforcement’, University of Chicago Law Review, vol. 27, no. 3, pp. 427–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Brereton, D & Willis, J 1990, The committal in Australia, Australian Institute of Judicial Administration, Canberra.Google Scholar
  11. Buckle, S & Buckle, L 1977, Bargaining for justice: case disposition and reform in the criminal courts, Praeger Publishers, New York.Google Scholar
  12. Canadian Law Reform Commission 1989, Plea discussions and agreements (Working paper #60), Canadian Law Reform Commission, Canada.Google Scholar
  13. Chan, J & Barnes, L 1995, The price of justice: lengthy criminal trials in Australia, Hawkins Press, Sydney.Google Scholar
  14. Clark, P 1986, ‘The public prosecutor and plea bargaining’, Australian Law Journal, vol. 60, no. 4, pp. 199–214.Google Scholar
  15. Cohen, S & Doob, A 1989, ‘Public attitudes to plea bargaining’, Criminal Law Quarterly, vol. 32, pp. 85–109.Google Scholar
  16. Coopers & Lybrand 1989, Review of the New South Wales Court System (Coopers Lybrand Report, May 1989), Parliament of New South Wales, Sydney.Google Scholar
  17. Corns, C 1997, Anatomy of long criminal trials, Australian Institute of Judicial Administration, Melbourne.Google Scholar
  18. Daudistel, H 1980, ‘On the elimination of plea bargaining: the El Paso experiment’, in W McDonald & J Cramer (eds), Plea bargaining, pp. 55–77, Lexington Books, Massachusetts.Google Scholar
  19. Douglass, J 1988, Ethical issues in prosecution, National College of Dallas, Houston University Law Centre, Texas.Google Scholar
  20. Dubber, M D 1997, ‘American plea bargains, German lay judges & the crisis of criminal procedure’, Stanford Law Review, vol. 49, p. 547.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Dumont, H 1987, ‘The need for sentencing reform in Canada’, in H Dumont (ed.), Sentencing, pp. 175–213, Les’ Editions Yvon Blair, Canada.Google Scholar
  22. Fionda, J 1995, Public prosecutors and discretion: a comparative study, Clarendon Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
  23. Fitzgerald, O 1990, The guilty plea and summary justice, Carswell Publishing, Toronto, Canada.Google Scholar
  24. Flynn, A 2009, ‘Sentence indications for indictable offences: increasing court efficiency at the expense of justice – a response to the Victorian legislation’, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, vol. 42, no. 2, pp. 244–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Flynn, A 2010a, ‘An indication of injustice: an analysis of the problems inherent to maintaining the sentence indication scheme in Victoria’s Higher Courts’, Flinders Law Journal, vol. 12, no. 2, pp. 41–78.Google Scholar
  26. Flynn, A 2010b, ‘Victoria’s Legal Aid funding structure: hindering the ideals inherent to the pre-trial process’, Criminal Law Journal, vol. 34, no. 1, pp. 48–63.Google Scholar
  27. Flynn, A 2011, ‘“Fortunately we in Victoria are not in that UK situation”: Australian and United Kingdom perspectives on plea bargaining reform’, Deakin Law Review, vol. 16, no. 2, pp. 361–404.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Flynn, A 2012, ‘Bargaining with justice: victims, plea bargaining and the Victims’ Charter Act 2006 (Vic)’, Monash University Law Review, vol. 37, no. 3, pp. 73–96.Google Scholar
  29. Flynn, A 2016, ‘Plea negotiations, prosecutors and discretion: an argument for legal reform’, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, vol. 49, no. 4, pp. 564–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Flynn, A & Fitz-Gibbon, K 2011, ‘Bargaining with defensive homicide: examining Victoria’s secretive plea bargaining system post law reform’, Melbourne University Law Review, vol. 35, no. 3, p. 905.Google Scholar
  31. Frankel, M E 1982, ‘Criminal sentences: law without order’, in B Atkins & M Pogrebin (eds), The invisible justice system: discretion and the law (2nd edn), pp. 104–15, Anderson Publishing, Ohio.Google Scholar
  32. Freiberg, A 2014, Fox and Freiberg’s sentencing: state and federal law in Victoria (3rd edn), Thomson Reuters, Sydney.Google Scholar
  33. Freiberg, A & Seifman, R 2001, ‘Plea bargaining in Victoria: the role of counsel’, Criminal Law Journal, vol. 25, no. 2, pp. 64–74.Google Scholar
  34. Freiberg, A & Willis, J 2003, ‘Sentence indication’, Criminal Law Journal, vol. 27, pp. 246–59.Google Scholar
  35. Freidman, L 1982, ‘Discretion and public prosecution’, in B Atkins, & M Pogrebin (eds), The invisible justice system: discretion and the law (2nd edn), pp. 69–74, Anderson Publishing, Ohio.Google Scholar
  36. Gabbay, E 1973, Discretion in criminal justice, White Eagle Press, London.Google Scholar
  37. Gerber, P 2003, ‘Current issues: when is plea bargaining justified?’, Queensland University of Technology Law and Justice Journal, vol. 13, pp. 1–9.Google Scholar
  38. Goldstein, A 1981, The passive judiciary: prosecutorial discretion and the guilty plea, Louisiana State University Press, Louisiana.Google Scholar
  39. Henham, R 2001, Sentence discounts and the criminal process, Ashgate, London.Google Scholar
  40. Henry, D 1992, ‘Serious fraud, long trials and criminal justice’, Denning Law Journal, vol. 7, pp. 75–92.Google Scholar
  41. Heumann, M 1978, Plea bargaining: the experiences of prosecutors, judges and defence attorneys, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.Google Scholar
  42. Heumann, M & Loftin, C 1995, ‘Mandatory sentencing and the abolition of plea bargaining: the Michigan Felony Firearm Statute’, in R Abel (ed.), The law and society reader, pp. 185–213, New York University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  43. Hidden, P J 1990, ‘The benefits of committal proceedings’, Current Issues in Criminal Justice, vol. 2, no. 2, pp. 19–25.Google Scholar
  44. Hill, I 1999, ‘The Crimes (Criminal Trials) Act 1999’, in Leo Cussen Institute (ed.), Changes to criminal law, pp. 2.1–2.12, Leo Cussen Institute, Melbourne.Google Scholar
  45. JUSTICE 1993, Negotiated justice: a closer look at the implications of plea bargains, JUSTICE Publications, London.Google Scholar
  46. Kerstetter, W & Heinz, A 1979, Pre-trial settlement conference: an evaluation, United States Department of Justice, National Institute of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice, Washington.Google Scholar
  47. Kutateladze, B L, Lawson, V Z & Andiloro, N R 2015, ‘Does evidence really matter? An exploratory analysis of the role of evidence in plea bargaining in felony drug cases’, Law and Human Behaviour, vol. 39, no. 5, pp. 431–442.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Law Reform Commission of Western Australia 1999, Review of the criminal and civil justice system in Western Australia: final report. Available from: [accessed 18 January 2016].
  49. Louthan, W C 1985, ‘The politics of discretionary justice among criminal justice agencies’, in C F Pinkele & W C Louthan (eds), Discretion, justice and democracy, pp. 13–19, Iowa State University Press, Iowa.Google Scholar
  50. Lovegrove, A 1997, The framework of judicial sentencing, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Mack, K & Roach Anleu, S 1995, Pleading guilty: issues and practices, Australian Institute of Judicial Administration, Victoria.Google Scholar
  52. McConville, M 1998, ‘Plea bargaining: ethics and politics’, Journal of Law and Society, vol. 23, pp. 562–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. McConville, M & Marsh, L 2014, Criminal judges: legitimacy, courts and state-induced guilty pleas in Britain, Edward Elgar Publishing, Cheltenham.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. McConville, M & Mirsky, C 2005, Jury trials and plea bargaining: a true history, Hart Publishing, Oxford.Google Scholar
  55. McDonald, W 1985, Plea bargaining: critical issues and common practices, United States Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, Washington.Google Scholar
  56. Miller, S 2005, Victims as offenders: the paradox of women’s violence in relationships, Rutgers University Press, United States.Google Scholar
  57. Moxon, D 1988, Sentencing practice in the Crown Courts (Home Office Research Study #103), Her Majesty’s Stationary Office, London.Google Scholar
  58. Payne, J 2007, Criminal trial delays in Australia: trial listing outcomes (Research and Public Policy Series #74), Australian Institute of Criminology, Canberra.Google Scholar
  59. Pegasus Taskforce 1992, Reducing delays in criminal cases, Pegasus Taskforce Report, September 1992, Victoria.Google Scholar
  60. Pizzi, W 1999, Trials without truth: why our system of criminal trials has become an expensive failure and what we need to do to rebuild it, New York University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  61. Redlich, A D, Wilford, M M & Bushway S 2017, ‘Understanding guilty pleas through the lens of social science’, Psychology, Public Policy and Law, vol. 23, pp. 458–471.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Remington, F J 1993, ‘The decision to charge, the decision to convict’, in L E Ohlin & F J Remington (eds), Discretion in criminal justice: the tension between individualization and uniformity, pp. 73–135, State University of New York Press, Albany.Google Scholar
  63. Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse 2017a, Criminal Justice Report: Executive Summary and Parts 1–II, Royal Commission, Sydney.Google Scholar
  64. Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse 2017b, Criminal Justice Parts III–VI, Royal Commission, Sydney.Google Scholar
  65. Rubenstein, M & White, T 1980, ‘Alaska’s ban on plea bargaining’, in W McDonald & J Cramer (eds), Plea bargaining, pp. 25–57, Lexington Books, Massachusetts.Google Scholar
  66. Sebba, L 1996, Third parties: victims and the criminal justice system, Ohio State University Press, Ohio.Google Scholar
  67. Seifman, R 1982, ‘Plea bargaining in Victoria: getting the judges’ views’, Criminal Law Journal, vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 69–88.Google Scholar
  68. Solomon, P 1983, Criminal justice policy: from research to reform, Butterworths, Toronto.Google Scholar
  69. Stenning, P 2010, ‘Prosecutions, politics and the public interest: some recent developments in the United Kingdom, Canada and elsewhere’, Criminal Law Quarterly, vol. 55, no. 4, pp. 449–78.Google Scholar
  70. Stubbs, J & Tolmie, J 2008, ‘Battered women charged with homicide: advancing the interests of Indigenous women’, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, vol. 41, pp. 138–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Sulan, J R 2000, ‘Defence co-operation in the trial process’, paper presented at Australian Institute of Judicial Administration: Criminal Trial Reform Conference, Melbourne, Australia, 24–25 March 2000.Google Scholar
  72. Ulbrick, M, Flynn, A & Tyson, D 2016, ‘The abolition of defensive homicide: a step towards populist punitivism at the expense of mentally impaired offenders’, Melbourne University Law Review, vol. 40, no. 1, pp. 324–70.Google Scholar
  73. Utz, P 1978, Settling the facts, Lexington Books, Canada.Google Scholar
  74. Verdun-Jones, S & Hatch, A 1987, ‘An overview of plea bargaining in Canada: cautionary notes for sentencing reform’, in H Dumont (ed.), Sentencing, pp. 71–107, Les Editions Yvon Blair, Canada.Google Scholar
  75. Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service [VALS] 2015, Annual report 2014–2015, VALS. Available from: [accessed 18 January 2016].
  76. Victorian Law Reform Commission [VLRC] 2007, Victorian Law Reform Commission civil justice inquiry: draft recommendations, VLRC, Victoria.Google Scholar
  77. Victorian Sentencing Advisory Council [SAC] 2007, Sentence indications and specified sentence discounts: final report, SAC, Melbourne.Google Scholar
  78. Victorian Sentencing Advisory Council [SAC] 2016a, Sentencing Trends 2016, VSAC, Melbourne. Available from: [accessed 18 January 2016].
  79. Victorian Sentencing Advisory Council [SAC] 2016b, Community Correction Orders third monitoring report (post-guideline judgment), June 2016, VSAC, Melbourne. Available from: [accessed 18 January 2016].
  80. Victorian Sentencing Advisory Council [SAC] 2016d, Cases Sentenced in the Magistrates’ Court, Available from: [accessed 20 January 2018].
  81. Victorian Shorter Trials Committee 1985, Report on criminal trials, Australian Institute of Judicial Administration Incorporated, Canberra.Google Scholar
  82. Weatherburn, D & Baker, J 2000, Managing trial court delay: an analysis of trial court processing in the NSW District Criminal Court, New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, Attorney-General’s Department, Sydney.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Asher Flynn
    • 1
  • Arie Freiberg
    • 1
  1. 1.Monash UniversityClaytonAustralia

Personalised recommendations