Private Prosecutions
Private Prosecutions

The following Corporate Crime guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Private Prosecutions
  • Power to bring a private prosecution
  • Reasons why a private prosecution might fail
  • Procedure for bringing a private prosecution
  • Private prosecutor’s duty of candour
  • Confiscation or compensation following private prosecution
  • CPS power to end a private prosecution

STOP PRESS: The Private Prosecutors Association (PPA) has published the first edition of the Code for Private Prosecutors. The Code of Practice is voluntary but members of the PPA have committed to abide by it. See LNB News 18/07/2019 75. This Practice Note is being updated to reflect this development.

Power to bring a private prosecution

Section 6(1) of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1995 (POA 1985) permits private individuals to institute and conduct private prosecutions. A private prosecution is one brought by a private individual, company or organisation who is not acting on behalf of the police, Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) or other public prosecuting authority.

The statute preserves the position from common law, and has been referred to over time by the courts as an important right, see Lord Diplock, at p 498 of Gouriet:

a useful constitutional safeguard against capricious, corrupt or biased failure or refusal of those authorities to prosecute offenders against the criminal law

The fact that the general right to bring prosecution proceedings has been granted by statute, means it is not readily to be undermined (see the dicta of the Court of Appeal in D Ltd v A).

The Court of Appeal has noted that there has been a growth in private prosecutions in recent years, in particular in complex fraud cases where, in reality, the public authorities