A mitigation plea is extremely important as it is the only way to persuade the Judge to lighten the accused’s sentence after he pleads guilty. A mitigation plea involves the accused, or the lawyer representing him, informing the Judge of any mitigating factors that might lessen his sentence.
When does an accused give a mitigation plea?
A mitigation plea should be given once the accused is convicted of the charge. The Judge will take these factors into consideration and then pass the sentence on the accused. The aim of a mitigation plea is to obtain the lightest, most appropriate punishment that is reasonably possible for the accused.
What are mitigating factors?
Mitigating factors should be any reasons, facts or events that might persuade the Judge to give a lighter sentence. This can include facts regarding the accused’s personal background as well as the circumstances behind the offence committed. This plea can be a written or oral one.
Some points to consider prior to making a mitigation plea would be whether there is a minimum sentence for the offence; whether there is a compulsory custodial sentence; and whether other punishments, such as caning, probation or reformative training can be applicable.
Various examples of mitigating factors
In the mitigation plea itself, it is possible to talk about specific mitigating factors which relate to the case, and personal background mitigating factors. The former can include the minimal harm the victim suffered, while the latter can include factors such as the accused being a first-time offender, or the accused having made notable social contributions to society in the past.
Mitigating factors can also include how cooperative the accused was with the authorities and how he has shown his remorse. Other mitigating factors include: family background, education, medical background and employment. It is noted that forgiveness of an offender by the victim is generally given little weight as a mitigating factor, but a possible exception can be made where the accused’s sentence might aggravate the distress of the victim, or if the victim’s forgiveness provided evidence that the victim’s mental suffering due to the crime was much less that what would be normal. Age is given little weight as a mitigating factor as well, but there is an exception where the sentence is a long term imprisonment.
It is noted that depression can be a mitigating factor, resulting in the court concluding that such a condition substantially impairs one’s mental responsibility. However, it is crucial to note that it has been rejected as a factor in cases where the accused’s psychiatric condition has no causal connection with the offence he has committed. Little weight is accorded to such a factor in an offence involving proven dishonesty as well.
Even a guilty plea can be a mitigating factor, but it has to be balanced against the aggravating factors in the specific case. It is crucial to note that in sentencing, the judge will balance these aggravating factors with the mitigating factors to come to a decision on the extent of the sentence. This can be seen in serious cases, such as those dealing with rape or murder, where the offender’s previous good behaviour was accorded little weight due to the moral depravity of the crime.
After the mitigation plea, the Judge will pass a sentence, and the accused may make an appeal against the sentence if he feels that it is manifestly excessive, or if it is not in upheld by facts or the law. The prosecution can appeal against the sentence as well. If the accused has pleaded guilty and has been convicted, he can only make an appeal against the extent of his sentence.
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