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Examining the Role of Judicial Officers in Administering and Preventing Abuse of Plea Bargain as a Prosecutorial Strategy in Nigeria (Published)

Stakeholders in administration of criminal justice system have been critical of the concept of plea bargain. The complaint is that it promotes corruption because of its leniency to corrupt politicians and fraudulent businessmen and women owing to its abuse. Some critics of plea bargain argue that a system of negotiated criminal justice undermines deterrence as one major aim of criminal sanctions. Others maintain that repeat offenders who are familiar with the workings of the criminal justice system are able to negotiate more favourable sentences than first offenders. Still, others view plea bargain as benefiting only the rich since the poor hardly negotiate their charges and sentences. This paper argues that since a trial court has the final say on plea bargain agreement, there is no logical basis for fear of its abuse by parties to it unless the judiciary also lends its courts to corrupt practices. Plea bargain is open to every offender with equal opportunity for legal representation. The paper examines the importance of plea bargain and the role of judicial officers in its implementation. It concludes that courts are firmly in control of trials based on negotiated pleas as well as regular criminal trials, and are able to guide against abuse of this vital prosecutorial strategy. The paper recommends, inter alia, inserting express provisions in the criminal procedural laws empowering judicial officers to bar parties to criminal proceedings and their representatives from abandoning negotiated pleas. Doctrinal method of research is used in collating and analysing relevant sections of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (CFRN 1999), Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos State 2021 (ACJL Lagos), the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 (ACJA), judicial authorities, and learned articles.

Citation: Festus Okpoto Agbo (2022) Examining the Role of Judicial Officers in Administering and Preventing Abuse of Plea Bargain as a Prosecutorial Strategy in Nigeria, Global Journal of Politics and Law Research, Vol.10, No.3, pp.33-50

Keywords: Abuse, administering, plea bargain., preventing, role of judicial officers