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Change of plea

Purpose: To draw barristers’ attention to their obligations when a client wishes to change their plea from Guilty to Not Guilty.
Scope of application: All practising criminal barristers
Issued by: The Ethics Committee
First reviewed: 13/06/2018
Last reviewed: 01/11/2023
Status and effect: Please see the notice at end of this document. This is not "guidance" for the purposes of the BSB Handbook I6.4.

Barristers in criminal practice occasionally encounter a situation where the client has indicated that he intends to plead Guilty, pleads Guilty and then, at some
time before sentence is passed, changes his mind and seeks to vacate his plea and have a trial. This document offers guidance to practitioners on their professional obligations in such a situation.

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Important Notice

This document has been prepared by the Bar Council to assist barristers on matters of professional conduct and ethics. It is not “guidance” for the purposes of the BSB Handbook I6.4, and neither the BSB nor a disciplinary tribunal nor the Legal Ombudsman is bound by any views or advice expressed in it. It does not comprise – and cannot be relied on as giving – legal advice. It has been prepared in good faith, but neither the Bar Council nor any of the individuals responsible for or involved in its preparation accept any responsibility or liability for anything done in reliance on it. For fuller information as to the status and effect of this document, please see here.

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