Revitt, Borg and Barnes v Director of Public Prosecutions: Admn 8 Sep 2006

The defendants appealed against refusal of leave to withdraw their pleas of guilty. They argued that the current practice infringed their human rights.
Held: The magistrates had been correct not to allow the defendants to withdraw their pleas. Where a defendant makes an unequivocal plea of guilty which the court accepts, the defendant is thereupon ‘proved guilty according to law’ within the meaning of Article 6(2). The presumption of innocence ceases to apply and he can be sentenced on the basis that he has been proved guilty. A guilty plea can only found a ‘conviction’ and bring to an end the presumption of innocence where it is unequivocal. If it is equivocal, it must be treated as a plea of ‘not guilty’. If after an unequivocal plea of guilty has been made, it becomes apparent that the defendant did not appreciate the elements of the offence to which he was pleading guilty, then it is likely to be appropriate to permit him to withdraw his plea.

Lord Phillips LCJ, Bean J
Times 14-Sep-2006, [2006] EWHC 2266 (Admin), [2006] 1 WLR 3172, [2007] 1 Cr App R 19, [2007] RTR 23, (2006) 170 JP 729
European Convention on Human Rights 6
England and Wales
CitedS v Recorder of Manchester and Others HL 1971
S, a 16 year old boy pleaded guilty to attempted rape before a juvenile court. The magistrates adjourned the case for inquiry reports. On the adjourned hearing, his legal representative referred to evidence of the boy’s mental condition, and asked . .
CitedX v United Kingdom ECHR 23-Mar-1972
(Commission) The applicant said that having been pressured into pleading guilty: ‘The Commission examined this complaint under Article 6 (1) (Art. 6-1) of the Convention which guarantees the right to a fair trial, and also under Article 6(2) (Art. . .
CitedRegina v Bournemouth Justices, ex parte Maguire 1997
If magistrates having heard an application for leave to withdraw a plea of guilty conclude that the evidence described by the prosecution are not sufficient to find guilt, they may allow the plea to be withdrawn. Kennedy LJ: ‘Of course the court . .
CitedRO v United Kingdom ECHR 11-May-1994
(Commission) The applicant complained that the court had refused to allow him to withdraw his plea of guilty: ‘It is in the first place for the domestic authorities to determine rules regulating procedural aspects of criminal proceedings, subject to . .
CitedRegina v South Tameside Magistrates’ Court, ex parte Rowland 1983
If after the defendant enters an unequivocal plea of guilty it becomes clear that the defendant did not appreciate the elements of the offence to which he was pleading guilty, then it may be appropriate to permit him to withdraw his plea. . .
Adjourned fromRevitt and others v Director of Public Prosecutions Admn 17-Jul-2006
Short adjournment. . .

Cited by:
CitedWestminster City Council v Owadally and Another Admn 17-May-2017
Defendant must plea to charge, and not counsel
The defendants had, through their barrister, entered pleas of guilty, but the crown court had declared the convictions invalid because this had to have been done by the defendants personally, and remitted the cases and the confiscation proceedings . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Criminal Practice, Human Rights

Leading Case

Updated: 11 November 2021; Ref: scu.244861