Judicial Pre-trials in Criminal Court
A “Judicial Pre-trial” is very similar to a “Crown Resolution meeting”. The difference is that these discussions are before a judge in chambers or in closed court. The benefit of a judicial pre-trial is that the judge can help further narrow the issues and may be able to convince one party to resolve if their is an impasse in negotiations. Judicial pre-trials are also held as a mandatory step in many jurisdictions, particularly where the proceeding is expected to take up a significant period of Court time.
Closed court proceedings
As mentioned, these proceedings are done in Chambers or in closed court so accused persons are usually not permitted to attend. With the accused not present, Crown and Defence counsel can discuss the case much more frankly and without reservation since any admissions or concessions that the lawyer may make on behalf of his or her client is not binding until the client accepts it. In some jurisdictions the officer in charge of the investigation may attend; however, if the judge or counsel feels that it is discouraging open and frank discussions, they may be excused. All discussions in judicial pre-trials between counsel and the judge are considered “off the record’ in order to encourage open discussions about the case.
Judicial pre-trials are also very helpful in negotiating the best possible resolution agreement since there is the objective opinion of the judge who will suggest a reasonable sentence. The added benefit is that presiding judge of the pre-trial can accept a plea that same day and the accused will know what they are going to be sentenced to since the judge will express his or her opinion on an appropriate sentence.