Private Prosecutions are prosecutions not brought by the Crown or other statutory prosecuting authority (such as the Crown Prosecution Service). A private prosecution can be brought by any individual or any company and the right is expressly reserved in section 6(1) Prosecution of Offences Act 1985. Other than the fact the prosecution is brought by a private individual or company, for all other purposes they proceed in exactly the same way as if the prosecution had been brought by the Crown.
There are many advantages to a private prosecution; they are almost always quicker, more focussed and more efficient than public prosecutions, especially in cases involving fraud. People or companies might use a private prosecution where the Police or CPS have refused to investigate or prosecute a crime, where a state prosecution has failed or where an individual or a company wishes to have more control over the timing and execution of their criminal case.
Private prosecutions are suitable for individuals or companies who have been the victims of the criminal acts committed against them by others. Private prosecutions are often utilised by victims of fraud in place of civil litigation as it is often considered to be cheaper and quicker. Private prosecutions in the UK are only a suitable legal avenue if a substantial part of the offending has occurred in the UK.
The costs of pursuing a private prosecution procedure can range from £6,000 upwards depending on the volume of evidence, the investigatory work needed and the complexity of the case. Some private prosecutions can become expensive if there is significant evidence in other jurisdictions, experts are required and the matter results in a trial and confiscation.
Irrespective of success, a court may in any proceedings in respect of an indictable offence (one which can be tried in the Crown Court), order the payment out of central funds of such amount as the court considers reasonably sufficient to compensate a private prosecutor for any expenses properly incurred by him in the proceedings. An order should be made, save where there is good reason for not doing so, for example where proceedings have been initiated without good cause.
Once a summons has been issued for an offence, a case will typically be before the Magistrates’ Court within a few weeks. Thereafter, and depending on a number of factors, it would normally conclude within 6-9 months.
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Here are a few reasons to use criminal prosecutions:
If your company has budgetary constraints but a large fraud or counterfeit problem, prosecutions are cheaper and quicker than civil litigation.
Prosecutions are a good deterrent due to the powers and sanctions of the criminal court– including confiscation, the threat of a custodial sentence and a criminal record. A conviction can also affect an individual’s ability to be a company director and to win contracts in the EU with Government agencies.
Prosecution results can be publicised very easily and are easier to understand.
One of the first considerations in potential civil proceedings is “Are they worth it?” There’s no point taking civil proceedings against companies or individuals with no money. However, in certain criminal prosecutions it’s possible to apply for legal and investigative costs from central government funds. This may mean that criminal litigation might make commercial sense despite the worth of the defendant.
Where a defendant has been convicted of a criminal offence and benefited financially from their crime, it’s possible to ask the court to make a confiscation order in addition to a compensation order. A confiscation order may be easier to enforce than a compensation order and therefore, may be preferable. Where a company has financially suffered as a result of the crime, it is possible for the company to be compensated for this loss.
Private prosecutions are often used to tackle economic or large-scale crime that have not been understood or prioritised by traditional law enforcement agencies.
Fraud prosecutions can be used in a broad array of situations – for example, any intended false representation made by an individual or company, in order to cause a loss to someone or gain a financial advantage, is prosecutable.
With a private prosecution, the client controls the speed of the investigation and prosecution, rather than relying upon the Police or CPS.
Finally, sometimes it is a good idea to take out a private prosecution because life-changing events occur which we must resolve. We understand the importance of this for our clients, so we approach every case we prosecute with dedication and a focus on results. We also strive to be easy to talk to, empathetic and approachable.