The Blackmail inherent in the Plea Bargain

There is going to be lots of hate blowing in the wind over the Fairbrother case, mainly because so much of the detail will never be told.

This quote from the article in particular needs an explanation because so few people understand how an RSPCA prosecution (and very often a police CPS prosecution) pans out.

“What really disappoints me is that a number of charges have been dropped, how can you face 17 charges each and be allowed to plead to only a handful?”

A typical raid snatches as many animals as it possibly can. Then it works out what charges should be brought and who should be charged.

The charges can be divided into three categories. Sometimes they will consist of only one category, sometimes all three.

Firstly there are those charges that are going to be impossible to defend except by mitigation.

Secondly there are those charges that might result in a Guilty verdict but which for various reasons can be defended and might result in a Not Guilty verdict.

Thirdly there are those charges that are simply ridiculous but which are included because they can be bargained away. They are useful psychological tools in that they help to further terrify and overwhelm the Defendant and their legal / veterinary team.

The Defendants can be divided into categories too.

Firstly there is the person who is actually responsible for the animals and whatever has happened too them.

Secondly there will be anyone who might have lived on the premises or visited regularly. This second category will often involve vulnerable people, either the very elderly, children, people who are ill, or a spouse / partner who will lose their job if they are involved in an animal welfare case.

When a case goes to court and it becomes clear that someone is fighting back these lesser categories become very important.

In order to get a conviction the RSPCA will make an offer to deal.

“We will drop those charges in the third or even the second category if you plead guilty to some in the first or second category. “

Why would they do this?

It prevents the Defence team raising any legal arguments that might get the case struck out. Was the warrant properly obtained? Used? Did the seizure take place properly? Was it properly documented? Were there any questions relating to the expert veterinary evidence? etc.

it also prevents any problems that might have occurred with the animals while in RSPCA possession being brought into the public domain. Did the animals die? Were they attacked by other animals? Did they become ill or were they injured?

The deal might also include who is to be prosecuted.

“Plead Guilty to some charges and we will drop the prosecution against your child / sick parent / mentally ill sister / partner who will lose their job.”

The pressure on a Defendant who has been made an offer like this just before the case is about to start is immense.

Their legal team can not make the decision for them, only pass on the offer and tell them that courts might give a lesser sentence for a Guilty plea that saves court time.

For those who have to pay for their legal representation and who may well have lost their incomes because of the prosecution there is also the issue of costs to consider.  The costs of a full blown trial can run into many thousands of pounds.  Often far more than any fines are likely to be.  

So next time you see people wondering why charges are dropped or claiming that a Guilty plea means that the people involved must have done something wrong please explain the facts to them.