Equivocal pleas

Equivocal pleas




An equivocal plea is one that is contradictory, where the defendant pleads guilty, but adds something that indicates a defence. A good barometer of whether a plea is equivocal is if it can be described as ‘guilty, but…’

That said, it may be that the statement that follows the plea indicates that the defendant does not accept that they are guilty, but is pleading simply for convenience.

Simple examples may be, ‘I plead guilty, but I didn’t do it’, ‘I plead guilty but it was in self defence’ or ‘I just want it over and done with’.

What happens?

Upon a conviction, it is possible to ask the Crown Court or Court of Appeal to vacate the defendant’s plea of guilty on the basis that it was equivocal. This will then require the court to send the case back to the Magistrates’ Court for the defendant to enter a not guilty plea.


Lyndon is the General Editor of Current Sentencing Practice and the Criminal Appeal Reports (Sentencing)


    • You cannot apply to make an equivocal plea, it is an argument made after you have been convicted. Statutorily, appeals against conviction must be made with 28 days, however the court can grant leave out of time (after that limit has passed). Hope that helps.

  1. As said by Harris, a plea is made after the accused is brought to court. it’s upon the court to determine whether it is equivocal or unequivocal.

  2. Well said, …. If upon reading of facts the accused admits the facts but proceeds to explain or give an excuse why he committed such an act, would that constitute equivocal plea?…

  3. Nope. I pleased guilty to ” 2 public order offences against a copper who threatened me” ( calling me a wife beater) told him to go fuck himself as he had arrested me. So he had done his job. So shut the fuck up and let the real people decide. ie magistrates. They found me not guilty as I shouldn’t have to have put up with that intimidation… ” their words” 9 months of hell waiting to prove I was telling the truth. Also not guilty to a lieing ex missus who said I assaulted her. Till she admitted ( by accident) in court that she assaulted me Hate liars…

  4. The courts decide if tour plea is correct. I was found.not guilty after I admitted 2 public order offences after a copper arrested me and threatened me. ” saying he would tell my employers I was a wife beater” I told him to shut the fuck up as he had done his job by arresting me and should let the real people do their job. The magistrates found me not guilty on equivocal evidence as I shouldn’t have to put up with that intimidation and that I entered the wrong plea
    ( magistrates own Words) I was also found not guilty of assault as my ex missus ( by mistake) admitted that it was her that assaulted me the week before. That’s why I left her when a week later she got drunk and tried to do it again in front of my boy. So I left. Now I go for full custody. I hate liars