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Private Prosecutions

Private Prosecutions

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 bringing a private prosecution; they are almost always quicker, more focused and more efficient than public prosecutions, especially in cases involving fraud ; any type of fraud involving misrepresentations in a business, or in a financial context which has resulted in loss to the company or an individual and internal fraud within the company. 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.

A private prosecution can have a significant deterrent  effect – it sends a clear message to a potential fraudster that a company defrauded will take a robust and decisive action.

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 be extremely expensive 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 forensic accountants 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.

A conviction can also affect an individual’s ability to be a company director and if convicted of a criminal offence and it is found that the defendant has benefited financially from their crime it is possible to ask the court to make a confiscation order in addition to a compensation order. If the company has budgetary constraints large fraud prosecutions are typically cheaper than civil litigation and of course the client controls the speed of the investigation rather than relying on the CPS or the police.

Irrespective of success, a court may in any proceedings in respect of an indictable offence 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.

The standard of proof in criminal courts is high, the Magistrates or jury must be satisfied of the defendant’s guilt so that they are sure or as is commonly known- beyond reasonable doubt.