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‘Basis of Plea’- is safe to accept and a ‘Newton hearing’

Regarding, what seems to some as a never-ending delay in the Eze Group sentencing, many consumers [we represent] have asked for an update.

As I understand matters, when then 3 defendants were charged, they presented themselves to the magistrate’s court. The court having considered the matter referred the case to the crown court believing that if the prosecution were successful the defendants could be incarcerated.

In most cases, a defendant will plead either guilty or not and in some cases that plea will be after the person is informed of the maximum sentencing they could receive if found guilty. It this consideration feature in the decision process the person may wish to apply to the court to obtain and an ‘advanced indication‘ of sentencing before the plea is made.

From my knowledge, this quest did not appear in the case Regina v Eze Group, Mr and Ms O’Reilly.

In the Crown Court, before entering a guilty plea, it is possible for the defendant to seek an indication of the maximum sentence that a judge would impose, This is referred to  as a Goodyear R v Goodyear [2005] EWCA Crim 888, [2005] 1 WLR 2532, [2005] 2 Cr App R 20).

This can include, whether the sentence will be custodial or not and/or the maximum custodial sentence that could be imposed.

An indication will usually be binding only on the day it is given or for such other period as stated by the judge.

Once given, the defendant will have to consider whether to accept the indication and guilt plead (knowing the maximum sentence he will face) or not to accept the indication, plead not guilty and continue to trial.

For a Goodyear indication to be given, the judge will need to know what the ‘factual basis‘ of the sentence will be.

This will cause no difficulty if the defendant accepts the prosecution version of events, or if there is a defence ‘basis of plea‘ which is accepted by the prosecution and approved by the judge.

The facts, in this case, are the Directors of Eze Group and the Company itself have pled guilty to offences put. (mis-selling, with aggression and cohesions etc)

Accordingly, the trio was due to be sentenced.

I believe (and I am speculating here) that after the plea was entered, the defendants became concerned as to the potential sentence they might face thus, consulted others. I believe a change in counsel has occurred, alternate advice has been sort and received, accordingly as the Goodyear indication was vacated the defendant have sort and been granted a ‘Newton hearing‘ with a ‘trial window‘ between – June and November 2018.

Of course, counsel acting for the defendant and the court its self-has asked for and been given the pleas and those pleas were Guilty. However, the issue now is one of what is ‘Basis of Plea’ and ‘is safe to accept‘, in relation to the sentencing.

The term ‘Newton hearing’ is better known as “an inquiry”. The concept is a comparatively contemporary legal procedure and is used when used the assuror and the defendant offer such conflicting evidence that a judge sitting alone (that is, without a jury) tries to ascertain which party is telling the truth.

So far, the Eze group and their directors are explained to the court that, little harm was done, therefore, the corresponding punishment ought to be a ‘slap on the wrists‘, whereas the prosecution seeks substantially more.

The Newton hearings are generally used when a defendant pleads guilty to an offence and its name descends from the case Regina v Newton. In this case, there are factual issues (relating, for example, to the appropriate sentence) that need to be resolved between the prosecution and defence. The 1983 case, Regina v Newton surrounded a buggery case in that the defendant admitted buggery but claimed his wife consented.

The Court of Appeal ruled that ‘in such cases, there were three ways of resolving the issue. It may be possible to obtain the answer from a Jury by directing them to consider whether there is the necessary intent for a specific offence or whether a lesser offence which does not require intent is made out. If that is not possible then either evidence could be heard from both sides and a conclusion reached on the matter which was the root of the problem, or no evidence heard but submissions analysed and, where a substantial doubt still persisted, benefit be given to the defendant’.

The sentence in the matter of Regina v Eze Group Europe Ltd, Mr Dominic O’Reilly and his Daughter Ms O’Reilly was adjourned on 30th April Birmingham Crown Court to an agreed date June and November 2018.

Therefore Sentencing information (‘Friskies schedule’) will have been served by the prosecution at the outset of proceedings, a plea was entered and based upon advice received which is now subject to an inquiry regarding the factual issues surrounding the plea.

The onus is on the defence to make it clear if it does not accept the facts put forward by the prosecution. Consequently, the defence should bear the costs of any adjournment.

The prosecution is required to call evidence first in relation to the matters in dispute, and the defence will then call evidence to support its version of the facts.

The burden of proof lies upon the prosecution, who must prove their assertions of fact beyond reasonable doubt.

If the defendant declines to call evidence, the court is entitled to reject the mitigation and sentence on the defendant version of events.

The fact is the plea remains guilty and it’s unlikely that any witnesses will be required to attend this hearing other than Officers.

The sentencing will take place as soon as possible after the hearing.

It is anticipated that the sentence and details of the case will be well circulated, due to a lot of media interest.

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Posted on: 6th July 2018