Private prosecutions—an introductory guide
Private prosecutions—an introductory guide

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

  • Private prosecutions—an introductory guide
  • Power to bring a private prosecution
  • Reasons why a private prosecution might fail
  • CPS power to end a private prosecution
  • Challenging a decision to take over and discontinue a private prosecution
  • Code of practice for private prosecutors
  • Bringing a private prosecution—a summary of the process
  • Private prosecutor’s duty of candour
  • Confiscation or compensation following private prosecution
  • Compensation orders

Power to bring a private prosecution

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. Section 6(1) of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985 (POA 1985) preserves the right of a private individual to institute and conduct prosecutions.

There are a wide range of offences which are regularly prosecuted privately by eg charities such as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals or organisations such as Federation against Copyright Theft and the British music industry for misuse of intellectual property.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has also relied upon the power to prosecute as a private individual to prosecute offences which did not directly fall into their statutory ambit (R v Rollins).

The right to bring a private prosecution has been referred to over time by the courts as an important right, see Lord Diplock, at p 498 of Gouriet, where he described it as:

‘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 this right has been enshrined in statute means it is not readily to be undermined (see the dicta of the Court of Appeal in D Ltd v A), where the court noted that there had

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