Why Did Rita Plead Guilty On The Day of Trial?
One of the nation’s favourite sweethearts, Barbara Knox (AKA Rita from Coronation Street) recently appeared in court charged with drink driving. She received a 12 month ban – the minimum possible! – and financial penalties approaching £5,000.
It might sound like a good result from a hot-shot lawyer, until you examine it in more detail.
Ms Knox was charged with a blood alcohol reading of 85mg. The legal limit is 80mg.
Most respectable solicitors would expect to be able to secure a minimum ban for a client with such a reading, especially an elderly woman of previous good character who had only maneuvered within a car park before being stopped by police.
What is interesting about Ms Knox’s case is that she pleaded not guilty initially, and the case has dragged on for almost a year. If she’d pleaded not guilty at the initial hearing in 2014, she would have almost finished serving her ban now.
Instead, she entered a not guilty plea, struck up an expected tens of thousands of pounds on legal fees, and then changed her plea to guilty just weeks before her trial date.
The question being asked in the Forrest Williams office as we read this news story, is why did she change her mind?
It’s a serious point that is worth discussing.
There are many reasons why a person may decide to change their mind and plead guilty.
A key witness may refuse to be involved and assist with the case. The stress of the upcoming trial may prove too much for a person to deal with.
Here at Forrest Williams we even had a client receive an offer of work abroad just before their trial date, meaning they’d rather plead guilty and have the case finalized than go through with the stress of a trial, when they didn’t really need their licence any more anyway.
There is another scenario, however, that we know happens too often.
A client is advised by his solicitor to plead not guilty. They are assured that the firm win 99% of all trials. They feel confident, happy, trusting. And then a few weeks before the trial date, they are advised that they are sadly the 1% who do not have grounds to plead not guilty. They are advised to change their plea.
They have spent thousands of pounds on a defence that does not exist, they have lost the good will of the court by forfeiting their opportunity to enter an early guilty plea, and they have delayed an inevitable ban.
We know the firm who represented Ms Knox and know that they do not operate this way, but not all firms are as honest.
Here at Forrest Williams, we always give clients an honest assessment of their case. Clients who have no grounds to plead not guilty are told this, even when it isn’t what they want to hear.
For a free initial telephone consultation about your own drink driving case, call us now on 01623 600645.