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The Practice and Justifications of Plea Bargaining by Hong Kong Criminal Defence Lawyers

  • Kevin Kwok-yin CHENG (a1)

Unlike Western common-law jurisdictions where plea bargaining has been acknowledged, official discourse in Hong Kong denies the existence of plea bargaining. However, defence lawyers are staunch supporters of its use behind the scenes. Using in-depth, semi-structured interviews with Hong Kong criminal defence lawyers, it was found that lawyers’ justifications are based on four main grounds: it is non-coercive because the final decision is left to the accused; negotiations avoid the risks of trials; plea bargaining is a practical solution that is in the best interests of the client and the state; and the courts implicitly tolerate the practice. The findings can be explained by Eisenstein and Jacob’s (1991) courtroom workgroup model. The present study seeks to bridge the gap in the literature where plea bargaining has only been discussed predominately in the context of Western common-law jurisdictions.

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Kevin Kwok-yin Cheng, JD, PhD, is Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Law, the Chinese University of Hong Kong. His research interests revolve around issues in criminal justice and criminology. His works have appeared in the British Journal of Criminology, Asian Journal of Criminology, and International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology.

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Asian Journal of Law and Society
  • ISSN: 2052-9015
  • EISSN: 2052-9023
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