Negotiated Plea Agreements in Cases of Serious and Complex Fraud in England and Wales: A New Conceptualisation of Plea Bargaining?

Daniele Alge


This article examines negotiated plea agreements introduced by the Attorney General in 2009 for cases of serious or complex fraud, and the degree to which these differ from plea agreements reached through informal plea bargaining in other types of criminal case. It first considers whether the formally negotiated agreements are a result of coercion being brought to bear on defendants, or of defendants ‘playing the system’ (the two most common criticisms of ordinary plea bargains). It is then argued that an alternative conceptualisation may be more appropriate in serious fraud cases.

To this end, approaches to plea bargaining more commonly applied in the United States (consensual, concessions, and contractual models) are considered in light of the current context. It is submitted that whilst these approaches have only limited application to defendants in ordinary criminal cases, they may help explain the dynamic of plea agreements in serious fraud cases. This in turn provides a basis upon which to assess the fairness of negotiated pleas in serious fraud cases, and highlights issues which lie at the core of the plea bargaining debate.

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