Effective October 12, the judiciary will roll out the use of plea bargain in the prosecution of criminal cases, a process that will begin on pilot basis in some five intermediate courts and on two crimes of assault and theft. Plea bargain is the practice of negotiating an agreement between the prosecution and the defence, whereby the defendant pleads guilty to particular charges in exchange for a more lenient sentence or other possibilities that may even include dismissal of the charges. Ahead of the roll out, which will be coupled with a nationwide awareness drive, prosecution has issued guidelines on the processes of entering a plea bargain for a suspect. Below are six key highlights of the process as outlined by the National Public Prosecution Authority. On which crimes can plea bargain apply? Plea bargain can be applied to all offences, however, before initiating plea bargaining, the Prosecutor has to consider the nature of the committed offence, its impact on the victim and on the society, and the available opportunities to collect evidence on the commission of the offence and the perpetrators. After interviewing the suspect on the charges against him or her, the Prosecutor may introduce plea bargaining voluntarily or upon request from the suspect or his or her lawyer. The Prosecutor submits a report to his supervisor at first level, this report may detail the reasons pushing him to opt for plea bargaining. If he or she does not get back any other guidance within three days, the Prosecutor initiates plea bargaining. Negotiating a plea bargain Plea bargaining is done in writing. The prosecutor submits the document to the suspect. That document should include an explanation to the suspect on how they are bound to benefit from entering the plea, ask the suspect if they agree to enter into plea bargaining and set a deadline of not later than three days in which the suspect can agree or not to enter plea. Whatever decision the suspect takes, it is done in writing and signed by them and their lawyer. The consent letter should include that the suspect understands the benefits and agreed willingly. Plea bargaining procedure If a Prosecutor has received the suspect’s consent letter to plea bargaining, the bargaining is initiated and once it is concluded, a detailed file is compiled and signed by all parties. In the event there are more than one suspect, the agreement on plea bargaining is concluded between the prosecutor and each suspect, even though all of them have admitted the agreement. This implies that each suspect will have their individual file. If there are some suspects who object to a plea, that agreement will be sent to the suspects who admit it. Prosecutor’s promise to the suspect During the agreement on plea bargaining, the prosecutor is allowed to give guarantees to the suspect that he would reduce the charges if he is suspected to commit more than one offence, opt to charge the suspect the minor offence among the charges against him, request for the suspect, the minor sentence before the court and promise the suspect the provisional release or request for provisional release if the suspect was in detention. While initiating the discussion on the agreement, the prosecutor should inform the suspect that the court is not bound to admit the agreement on plea agreement. The information that the suspect has provided during the agreement on plea bargaining will only be used for matters related to that agreement. If it is not possible for both parties to conclude an agreement, the provided information should not be used as evidence against the suspect or for any other reason. What happens in court? At the time to lodge a complaint before the court, the prosecutor submits the indictment, the agreement on plea bargaining between the suspect and the Prosecution, and the Prosecution requests the court to agree to the agreement on plea bargaining together with the content of the whole file. If the Court admits the agreement on plea bargaining, the latter becomes binding for both parties. If the Court rejects the agreement on plea bargaining, the latter is invalid for both parties. Cancelling a plea bargain At any time that the court has not yet made a decision on the agreement on plea bargaining, each party has the right to withdraw from the agreement. However, there are other exceptional considerations to base on in terminating the agreement, these include, when suspect dies, when the he suspect provided wrong information, when the suspect changes his mind regarding the information he has provided before and if it is evident to the prosecutor that the suspect has hidden some evidences or has destroyed some.