What is a Private Prosecution?
If a crime has been committed it is the role of the police to investigate the crime and where appropriate for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to prosecute the case through the criminal courts. However it is not just the CPS or other government bodies that have the power to prosecute individuals and companies, anyone can bring a prosecution against someone suspected of committing a crime. If the prosecution results in a conviction the offender will be punished and have a criminal record in exactly the same way as if the Police and CPS had brought the case. Private prosecutions are increasingly used by businesses as a recourse against those that have committed fraud or theft against their business but can be used for any criminal offences.
Why bring a Private Prosecution?
If you have been the victim of a crime you would expect the police and Crown Prosecution Service to take action to prosecute the persons responsible. The reality is that faced with extensive cuts in funding the police and prosecuting authorities are struggling to deal with complaints from victims with many feeling that they are wrongly informed that there is “insufficient evidence” to prosecute or that the complaint is a “civil matter”. This can leave a victim feel let down as the offender goes unpunished. A private prosecution can bring a sense of justice to a victim, ensure the offender does not financially benefit from a crime and provide compensation for any loss caused by the criminal conduct.
What are the consequences of a successful Private Prosecution?
- The offender will be punished. This could range from a fine to imprisonment.
- The offender will have a criminal conviction.
- The case may attract publicity to protect other potential victims.
- The offender can be ordered to pay compensation for any loss caused to a victim.
- The offender can be ordered to pay the investigation and prosecution costs.
Why bring a Private Prosecution rather than a Civil claim?
Financially it may be better to commence a criminal prosecution rather than bringing a civil claim. The court fee to commence a case in the magistrates’ court will be substantially less than the civil courts. If successful the defendant will be ordered to pay compensation for any loss caused by the criminal conduct. Whether successful or unsuccessful as long as the case has been properly prosecuted the reasonable costs of investigating and prosecuting the matter will paid either by the offender or the court. In the absence of bad faith or incompetence on the part of the prosecution a successful defendant will only be able to recover their costs from the court.
Can I bring a Private Prosecution and a Civil claim?
Yes, in many instances it is tactically advantageous to do so. The threat of a criminal conviction may make a defendant more willing to accept responsibility for their actions and repay any losses they have caused. If the defendant is convicted in the criminal courts that conviction can be used in the civil courts to prove their unlawful conduct. However, if the defendant is found not guilty in the criminal courts he can still be found to have acted unlawfully in the civil case as the civil courts only have to be satisfied “on the balance of probabilities” rather than “beyond reasonable doubt”, which is required in the a criminal case.
If you are considering bringing a private prosecution our expert private prosecution solicitors in Leicestershire can provide initial advice as to the prospects of a successful prosecution. If you wish to proceed with the matter our Business Defence team can initiate and prosecute a criminal case on your behalf. Please contact us on 01858 462 462.
Recent News regarding Private Prosecutions
Police only Investigating Burglary for victims leaving at odd number houses:
CPS “Close to collapse”
Further cuts in police numbers