Private Prosecutions

Did you know that any victim of a crime can bring a private prosecution? Yes, any individual or company can bring its own prosecution. It is protected by law.

Did you know that any victim of a crime can bring a private prosecution? Yes, any individual or company can bring its own prosecution. It is protected by law.

In recent years, more and more individuals and companies are pursuing this course of action. This is due in part to resource constraints experienced by the police and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).


What is a Private Prosecution?

A private prosecution is “a prosecution started by a private individual (or entity) who is not acting on behalf of the police or any other prosecuting authority or body which conducts prosecutions”. It is permitted by Section 6(1) of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985.


We can help

If you are considering a private prosecution then our Private Prosecution Team at 7 Harrington Street Chambers can help.

Private prosecutions are becoming increasingly commonplace as businesses seek to achieve justice, and recoup their losses in a cost effective and efficient way.

Corporations and individuals may wish to bring prosecutions independently but may also find themselves the target of ill-founded or malicious private prosecutions.


How does a private prosecution work?

Firstly, we will consider and review any and all available evidence you hold and assess the relative strengths/weaknesses of your case.


Reasons for Starting a Private Prosecution

The following are typical examples:


To Recover the Proceeds of Theft or Fraud

A company trying to recover the proceeds of theft or fraud by employee/director/partner/trustee/customer/distributor as an alternative (or in addition) to civil litigation. A private prosecution is often cheaper and quicker than protracted civil litigation. Many companies prefer private prosecutions because they have a lower profile. This is particularly important for brand holders, who have a reputation to maintain and often privately prosecute vendors of counterfeit goods.


To Prosecute Someone for Perverting the Course of Justice or Committing Perjury

A defendant who has been found guilty or not guilty of a criminal offence might want to consider the merits of prosecuting a witness who may have attempted to pervert the course of justice or is suspected of having committed perjury in the course of the original case.

These cases have to be approached with care, especially when a public prosecutor has decided not to bring proceedings against the witness. Advice on the merits of an appeal against conviction is normally the first port of call. However, where a defendant has been found not guilty, or the public prosecution was discontinued due to a serious shortfall in the evidence of a witness, a private prosecution could be the most suitable remedy.


To Prosecute When the Police Have Failed to Investigate Properly or There is A Lack of Resources

Someone might want to privately prosecute where the police either don’t have the resources or have not investigated thoroughly, despite what is believed to be good merits. The rise in the number of private prosecutions is partly attributed to decreasing budgets for public prosecutions. We have also succeeded in persuading the Crown to adopt private investigations, ultimately leading to the initiation of public prosecutions.


To Pursue a Group Prosecution

Individuals can come together to pursue a group prosecution. A good example is a situation in which a rogue trader steals money from a string of customers and the customers want to recover their money and reflect the wrongdoing in a criminal conviction. This approach can also have significant cost advantages.


Types of prosecutions

Private prosecutions can be brought in relation to any alleged criminal offences, but the most common types are related to:


  • Fraud
  • Regulatory offences
  • Harassment and stalking
  • Blackmail
  • Rape and other sexual offences
  • Perverting the course of justice
  • Domestic violence
  • Driving offences


What are the benefits?

Costs – you are eligible to claim back costs incurred from Central Funds even if you lose or the case is withdrawn

Defendant costs – unlike other proceedings the general principle is that you will not have to pay the Defendant’s costs if you lose your case.

Speed – unlike civil proceedings, matters can be brought to court very quickly

Control – you are in control (not a Government agency)

Expert legal resources – you have access to a better resourced, more focused and efficient team rather than any other public prosecution

Wider powers of punishment – criminal convictions carry a stigma whilst criminal courts have wider powers to punish from fines and confiscation to imprisonment.

Call the team on: 0151 242 0704
Email the Private Prosecutions Team

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