oa Comparative and International Law Journal of Southern Africa - Message in a bottle for unknowing defenders: strategic plea negotiations persist in South African criminal courts

Volume 32, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0010-4051



When a foreign lawyer spends time observing and interviewing participants in another legal system, the differentiation between mediocre and outstanding lawyering is sometimes quite startling. This article was born out of many months observing and interviewing practitioners in the criminal courts around Cape Town and Johannesburg. If an observer looks closely, she will find that pre-trial plea negotiations persist at all levels of South African criminal courts, particularly among more experienced practitioners, despite the fact that the practice is neither formally sanctioned nor taught in law school trial advocacy courses. This non-recognition of a pervasive practice by the legal hierarchy has created a group of unknowing defenders who are unenlightened regarding the nuances of pre-trial practices and negotiation strategies.

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