Quick guilty plea could buy up to 40 percent decrease in prison term for Australian criminals

ADELAIDE, Australia (AP) — Criminals who plead guilty within six weeks of their arrest could get a 40 percent reduction in their prison sentence under a proposal aimed at reducing the backlog at courts in one Australian state.

South Australian Attorney-General John Rau said Tuesday that late guilty pleas were a major contributor to delays and inefficiencies in the trial process.

"I am concerned by the substantial number of defendants who plead not guilty initially and are committed for trial, only to plead guilty later in proceedings, often literally at the doors of court, or on the first day of trial," Rau told reporters.

The 40 percent reduction in term length would apply for someone pleading guilty within six weeks of arrest, while a 30 percent cut would apply for a later plea that still comes before a trial is set. A 20 percent reduction would be given for guilty pleas entered after trial committal proceedings.

There would be no reduction for a plea entered in the four weeks leading up to a trial.

Rau said the proposal would not apply to the most serious of crimes, including violent assaults and sex crimes.

The plan will be presented for public consultation before being passed on to state lawmakers for a vote.