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Guilty plea decisions: moving beyond the autonomy myth

Helm, Rebecca, Dehaghani, Roxanna and Newman, Daniel 2022. Guilty plea decisions: moving beyond the autonomy myth. Modern Law Review 85 (1) , pp. 133-163. 10.1111/1468-2230.12676

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When a defendant pleads guilty to a criminal charge against them their conviction may be justified on the basis of autonomy rather than accuracy. In this context, autonomy can make the difference between a legitimate conviction and the breach of fundamental rights. However, autonomy in this context is not clearly defined. This article argues, based on philosophical conceptions of autonomy and empirical realities, that true autonomy is an ideal rather than a practical reality. It considers the level of autonomy necessary to legitimise a criminal conviction via plea, and suggests that current conceptions of autonomy are inadequate since they rely on a formalistic autonomy ‘myth’, presuming autonomy in the absence of threats. An analysis drawing on original empirical data from two studies demonstrates how autonomy may be being depleted to unacceptable levels in the current system. The article concludes by presenting reform proposals.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Law
Cardiff Centre for Crime, Law and Justice (CCLJ)
Subjects: K Law > KD England and Wales
Publisher: Wiley
ISSN: 0026-7961
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 1 June 2021
Date of Acceptance: 27 April 2021
Last Modified: 07 Jan 2022 15:29

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