GAS v R [2004] HCA 22

ON THIS DAY In 2004, the High Court of Australia delivered GAS v R [2004] HCA 22; 217 CLR 198; 206 ALR 116; 78 ALJR 786 (19 May 2004).

The court made these general observations about the documentation and recording of plea agreements in criminal cases:

“It is as well to add some general observations about the way in which the dealings between counsel for the prosecution and counsel for an accused person, on subjects which may later be said to have been relevant to the decision of the accused to plead guilty, should be recorded. In most cases it will be desirable to reduce to writing any agreement that is reached in such discussions. Sometimes, if there is a transcript of argument, it will be sufficient if an agreed statement is made in court and recorded in the transcript as an agreed statement of the position reached. In most cases, however, it will be better to record the agreement in writing and ensure that both prosecution and defence have a copy of that writing before it is acted upon. There may be cases where neither of these courses will be desirable, or, perhaps, possible, but it is to be expected that they would be rare.

Although the recording of the agreement is most obviously necessary in cases where some agreement is reached about matters of fact that will be put to the court as agreed facts or circumstances bearing upon questions of sentence, the desirability of recording what is agreed is not confined to those cases. It extends to every substantial matter that is agreed between the parties on subjects which may later be said to have been relevant to the decision of an accused person to plead guilty.

Recording what is agreed, in an agreed form of words, should reduce the scope for misunderstanding what is to be, or has been, agreed. It should serve to focus the minds of counsel, and the parties, upon the application of the three fundamental principles which are set out earlier in these reasons and describe the respective responsibilities of the prosecutor, the accused person and the sentencing judge. Most importantly, it enables counsel for both sides to be clear about the instructions to be obtained from their respective clients and the matters about which, and basis on which, counsel should tender advice to their respective clients. There should then be far less room for subsequent debate about the basis on which an accused person chose to enter a plea of guilty.”

Lawyers 1300 00 2088