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Private Prosecutions

A private prosecution can be an effective means of achieving justice and is becoming an increasingly popular option for victims of financial crime.

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Frequently asked questions about Private Prosecutions

A private prosecution can be an effective means of achieving justice and is becoming an increasingly popular option for victims of crime. Under the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985, any person or company can bring a private prosecution in the UK.

Private prosecutions are an effective tool in the fight against criminal wrongdoing and proceed in a similar way as a public prosecution.

Yes.  You can report a crime to public enforcement agencies, for example the police, action fraud and the National Crime Agency.  However, government cuts to enforcement agencies mean that they do not have the resources to combat all crime  that is reported and as a result many victims are left without justice.

Alternatively, any person or company can bring a private prosecution in the UK.   

If you are the victim of crime and the police fail to investigate, or the CPS fail to prosecute.  For example, many victims are told by the police that their complaint is a civil issue, when in fact there is evidence of criminal wrongdoing. 

Furthermore, a company or individual may decide to bring a private prosecution to maintain some control over the proceedings, and because they are usually quicker than public prosecutions.

They are also often quicker and more cost effective than civil proceedings, they provide a greater deterrent than civil proceedings and there are significant cost benefits (see below) 

Any person or company can bring a private prosecution in the UK.

Costs can range from about £4,000 upwards.  This will depend on the amount of investigatory work required, the volume of evidence and whether a suspect pleads guilty or not guilty. 

Yes.  There are several ways to recover the costs of a private prosecution:

  1. Firstly, the cost of an investigation and bringing a private prosecution are recoverable from a convicted party.  However, it is often the case that the convicted party does not have the funds to repay those costs. 
  2. A significant advantage to a private prosecution is that it is possible to recover reasonable costs for bringing the prosecution from the government, win or lose, as long as the case has been properly brought. 
  3. Additionally, as long as the case has been brought properly, it is unlikely that the prosecutor will have to pay the costs of the defendant if they are convicted.  This is in contrast to civil proceedings whereby the losing party is normally required to pay costs to the other side.

Yes.  The purpose of a private prosecution is different to that of a civil claim.  A private prosecution is brought to seek justice.  However, if a defendant is convicted of a criminal offence, there are various mechanisms that can be used to recover the proceeds of crime, including confiscation proceedings.  The court has the power to pay a compensation order to the victims and this can be paid out of any confiscation order.

The criminal powers of recovery are very strict and the defendant will be required to explain where all the proceeds of his / her crime are and how they have been dissipated.  If the defendant fails to adequately explain this, for example because they have hidden assets, they will be required to repay the full amount even if, for example, they have been declared bankrupt.  If the defendant does not satisfy the order by paying the amount due within a set period of time, the court has the power to impose a default sentence of up to 14 years.  This is in addition to any sentence given for the original offence for which they were convicted.

No, although it can often be a good idea. For example, some cases require the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions or the Attorney General.  Additionally it can often be advisable in complex cases, or cases of significant public interest.  We will advise you of this during the case.