[EDITORIALS]Plea bargains need checksThe prosecution is reportedly reviewing the possibility of implementing a plea-bargaining system in which suspects who plead guilty get lighter sentences. Along with the plea-bargaining system, the prosecution is also considering the implementation of an immunity system in which a witness is granted immunity or given a lesser sentence in exchange for providing evidence against a third party. Great changes in the prosecution’s investigative practices are expected if these two systems are implemented.
Until now, the prosecution had been hesitant in introducing these systems. The reason it has come under review recently is because of changes in court precedents. A Supreme Court ruling last December greatly limited the prosecution’s ability to present a written admission of guilt as evidence. This ruling poses difficulties for the prosecution, especially in bribery and drug-related cases, which had traditionally relied heavily on confessions.
If the plea-bargaining system is introduced, the prosecution could promptly process cases in which the suspect had pleaded guilty, and concentrate on cases in which the suspect had denied guilt. Also, in cases of sexual assault or organized crime, the plea-bargaining system could help protect the rights of victims by making it unnecessary for them to meet the suspects for questioning or to appear in court. Such advantages of the plea-bargaining system have already resulted in countries such as France, Italy and Spain, whose judicial systems, like ours, are based on Continental Law, adopting this system.
However, some point out that bargaining between the prosecution and suspects works only for the convenience of the prosecution. This is why we would also need mechanisms to minimize any side effects.
There is also the question of which cases and to what extent plea bargaining should be allowed. If plea bargaining is allowed in too many crimes, the prosecution might abuse the system. Overtly generous bargains could cause double suffering for the victims. If we grant absolute discretion to the prosecution, it could misuse it. If we are to implement the plea-bargaining system, we need to strictly regulate not only the types of crimes, but the amount of discretion given to the prosecution.
For this, supervisory mechanisms in the process of acquiring testimonies from suspects or witnesses are needed.