What does Pleading Guilty mean?
When you plead guilty to a Criminal charge, you admit fully the offence that you have been accused of having committed.
What happens in Court when you plead guilty?
If you decide to plead guilty, the Charge will be read to you in English or interpreted to you in a language you understand.
You must make sure that you understand the nature and the consequences of your plea – this means that you must be aware of the minimum and maximum punishments that you can receive for the charge and you must be prepared to accept whatever punishment the Court may impose on you.
The Prosecutor will then ask that the Statement of Facts be read to you. If you do not agree with what is stated in the Statement of Facts, you must tell the Court. The Court will ask you whether you disagree with the Statement of Facts totally or in part. If you disagree with the Statement of Facts (unless what you disagree with is not important), the Court will not accept your plea of guilt and will direct you to claim trial to the charge.
The SOF, which is prepared by the Prosecution, is supposed to be an objective summary of the facts of the charge, its particulars and how the offence was committed. It also helps the Court to determine the appropriate sentence for you. Upon receiving the SOF, you should go through the facts with your lawyer and instruct him on their accuracy. If you dispute any of the facts contained in the SOF, you should make this clear to your lawyer.
You must understand the nature and consequences of pleading guilty and be prepared to accept whatever punishment the Court may give. Leniency may be shown if you plead guilty at an early stage.
The Court will ask whether you agree or disagree with the SOF, totally or in part. If you disagree with the SOF on important issues, the Court will not accept your guilty plea and will direct you to claim trial to the charge. If you agree fully to the SOF, the Court will record your guilty plea and convict you.
If you do not agree to some important facts in the SOF or the Prosecution disagrees with some parts of your mitigation plea, a “Newton Hearing” may be held. A Newton Hearing is a type of mini-trial to determine factual issues.
You can only withdraw your guilty plea in very special circumstances, such as if you are able to demonstrate that you did not know the consequences of pleading guilty, did not know the elements of the offence, or were pressurised into pleading guilty.
If you are a youthful offender who is eligible for punishment by probation or reformative training, the Court can call for both probation reports and reformative training reports during which time you may be remanded.
If you would like to understand more about Criminal Law in Singapore how the issues discussed in this article may affect you, contact Singapore Criminal Defence Lawyer Jonathan Wong at [email protected] or +65 9424 6208 today.