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A recent trend in the UK that has been gaining popularity is that of private prosecutions. This relatively new practice has not gone unnoticed by many in the legal profession. Indeed, some of the UK’s judiciary have expressed concern about the use of this procedure.

At Lewis Nedas, we are regularly sought out by clients facing private prosecution to provide comprehensive legal advice and exert advocacy in order to defend them in legal proceedings. If you are facing a private prosecution, contact our leading criminal defence solicitors today.

What is a private prosecution?

Private prosecution is defined as ‘a prosecution started by a private individual who is not acting on behalf of the police or other prosecuting authority’. The increasing popularity of this method of seeking justice is attributable to a number of factors. Arguably the most important driver of private prosecutions is the difficulties currently being experienced by traditional authorities, including the police and CPS, in pursuing every prosecution. Recent years have seen a significant change in the funding and logistical supporting traditionally allocated to policing and prosecuting crime in the UK. This has resulted in the CPS having to take difficult decisions on cases where it is not convinced of the strength of its case, and the likelihood of a conviction.

How do private prosecutions work?

It is important to understand that private prosecutions are governed by strict legal codes not dissimilar to those that govern public prosecutions undertaken by the CPS. A party that is interested in pursuing a private prosecution must provide information to a Magistrate that conveys the following:

  • The nature of the offence in question;
  • Legislation that governs the offence complained of; and,
  • The particulars that constitute the offence.

It is only after this information has been conveyed that a Magistrate will agree to issue a Warrant and begin proceedings. It is important to point out, however, that it is not uncommon for the CPS to become aware of the prosecution and decide to take its own action in respect of either continuing or discontinuing the case.

Why would the CPS intervene and discontinue a case?

There are a variety of reasons why the CPS may become aware of a private prosecution, including the private prosecutor asking the CPS to take over, or where the judge hearing the case decides to send a report to the CPS. In deciding whether or not to intervene and continue or discontinue a case the CPS will need to consider:

  • Whether the evidence is available capable of being used in court, reliable and provides a realistic prospect of conviction;
  • What action would be in interests of the public; and
  • Whether the interests of justice warrant prosecution.

The CPS always take special care when considering their position in respect of taking over a private prosecution, and taking the decision to continue legal proceedings. It is important, however, that when you are faced with a private prosecution, you have the benefit of working with experienced lawyers that are familiar with the procedure for handling private prosecutions and are able to demonstrate the weaknesses of the case in question. In an ever-increasing number of instances, private prosecutions fail to meet the necessary requirements imposed on them, for a variety of reasons:

  1. The evidence available is not capable of being used in a court of law, or is not sufficiently robust to be able to connect an individual to a crime that is alleged to have taken place;
  2. The prosecution is based on ill-feeling and not upon legal rules, and is motivated by malicious intent on the part of the prosecuting party;
  3. There is no demonstrable public interest in the prosecution being pursued; or
  4. Having reviewed what evidence is available, even if there is a public interest, there is little to no prospect of a conviction being handed down in court.

Private prosecution defence lawyers

If you are faced with the prospect of being subject to a private prosecution you must seek out the advice of an experienced criminal lawyer. Your legal advisor should be very familiar with the rules applicable to prosecutions in the criminal courts, and able to conduct an exacting examination of the evidence alleged to warrant the prosecution. Furthermore, your solicitor must be a capable advocate, who is skilled in courtroom argument and is able to test the prosecution and expose the underlying weaknesses in a case.

Lewis Nedas is a firm of specialist criminal defence solicitors that meets all of these criteria. Our private prosecution team are tenacious and determined in defending clients that become the subjects of a private prosecution. We are regularly involved in acting in the criminal courts for clients that face private prosecutions for a variety of alleged offences, and are highly experienced in testing the quality of a case to expose flaws in reasoning and insufficient evidence. You will work with a solicitor who has experience of handling your particular concerns, and will advise you on the specifics of your case. The legal advice you receive from our team will be comprehensive in scope and practical in nature, so that you fully understand how we propose to deal with a private prosecution and mount a robust defence for you.

If you would like to speak to one of our team about a private prosecution, and find out more about how best to defend against it, contact our team today. We take pride in working to not only meet, but also exceed the expectations of our clients. We do this by providing legal advice that is specific to each individual client. We believe that no two clients will be the same in their needs, and bring our wealth of experience and depth of knowledge to each and every case that we are involved in. Contact us now to find out how we can help you.

Possibly because of the huge cuts that the prosecuting authorities have suffered as a result of the government’s austerity drive, many individuals and companies have been encouraged by our legal colleagues to pursue private prosecutions rather than hope that the authorities will eventually get around to a prosecution themselves.

It is also argued that a criminal prosecution for fraud or counterfeit fraud is quicker, cheaper and more effective that the civil justice system. They further argue that the criminal courts’ powers vis-à-vis confiscation, compensation and asset restraint are more effective than civil powers.

Of course, certain private organisations such as department stores, the RSPCA, FACT, and insurance companies have been successfully and fairly prosecuting private prosecutions for many years.

However, the latest trend appears to be a bevy of wealthy individuals instructing firms of solicitors to pursue aggressively some surprising prosecutions. This has not gone unnoticed by senior Judiciary and the CPS alike and they are very concerned about this current trend. So much so that the CPS are prepared to take over and discontinue these prosecutions if they do not meet the full evidential sufficiency test of the full prosecutorial code.

We have successfully defended a number of these private prosecutions; invariably these actions fail a substantial part of the code or the duties concerning disclosure of information that would undermine their case or assist the defence.

If you are facing such a prosecution, our lawyers will pursue your defence with their customary, unparalled determination and vigour.

Contact our Specialist Private Prosecution Solicitors

For further information or to speak to one of our top private prosecution solicitors please telephone us on 02073872032, complete our online enquiry form, or contact Jeffrey Lewis.

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