In recent years tightened budgets and extreme austerity measures have resulted in a diminished capability on the part of investigators, prosecutors and the criminal courts to deal with offending of all types. This has resulted in a greater demand for private prosecution solicitors.
The lack of resources available to public investigators is often further exposed by the increasingly sophisticated technology available to individuals which makes it easier for criminals to commit ever more complex crimes, but more difficult and more time consuming to investigate them.
The risks posed to the public by these limitations are now an acknowledged part of public life. However, where the public authorities may fail and individuals or corporate entities may wish to pursue a criminal investigation on a private basis, Cartwright King has the expertise to help.
Cartwright King’s specialist prosecutors undertake prosecutions on a national scale for a number of public bodies such as the RSPCA and the Royal Mail. Our in house Counsel can also draw on their past experiences as prosecutors in private practice. Our Counsel has experience of conducting prosecutions at the highest level, including prosecutions brought by the Serious Fraud Office.
The legal basis for Private prosecutions is Section 6 (1) of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985 which provides that any person can institute or conduct criminal proceedings in England and Wales.
Importantly, section 17 of the Act states that a private prosecutor may apply to the Court for the payment of any expenses incurred by him in the proceedings. That can include costs incurred in both the investigation stage and the prosecution itself.
Thus, whilst the public authorities may no longer be willing or able to deal with a case the option of a private prosecution is available.
The opportunity to recover the costs of investigation may make private prosecution a viable commercial alternative to civil proceedings.
How we can help
Cartwright King has longstanding expertise in all areas of the Criminal law. We routinely act in both the most serious and complex commercial frauds prosecuted in this jurisdiction to general criminal matters in the Magistrates’ court. We can assist whatever the nature of the offence you wish to prosecute. We can advise you throughout every stage of the case in relation to:
- The initial strategy and gathering of evidence in the investigation
- The possibility of obtaining a pre-charge asset freezing “Restraint Order” under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
- Analysis of the strength of the evidence obtained, formulating charges and obtaining a summons that the Defendant attend Court to be charged.
- Pre-trial litigation and disclosure of unused material to the Defence
- Court proceedings and trial
- If a conviction is obtained, private Confiscation proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act and other ancillary Orders.
The potential advantages of a Private Prosecution:
Bringing a Private prosecution can have several advantages over both a Public Prosecution and a Civil law action.
For example, where the crime alleged is complex or involves a degree of technical expertise, public bodies may not have the skills required to fully understand the subject matter even where they do possess the will to investigate.
In respect of paper heavy fraud investigations, resources are scarce and large quantities of documents cannot be considered quickly or thoroughly. This can mean that progress can be unreasonably slow. It can also mean that important evidence is missed and that flaws develop within the investigation which may undermine the ultimate prospect of conviction.
Our expertise in serious and complex crime and our access to networks of expert investigators ensures that we are able to get to the heart of an investigation quickly and efficiently and to provide advice as to the potential merits of a private prosecution.
Alternatively, the public authorities may class smaller matters that at first sight seem relatively straightforward as a low priority, causing those investigations to be delayed or even in some circumstances not pursued at all. At Cartwright King we understand that to a victim of a crime, their case is never a low priority.
Furthermore, the alternative route of filing a Civil claim can be prohibitively expensive. Aside from the risk inherent in litigation, simply filing the claim itself is a significant cost. For claims of over £10 000 a court fee of 5% of the value of the claim is payable, up to a maximum of £10 000 (for claims of £200 000 and over). Again, wholly separate to the merits of the claim itself, a civil action against an individual or company with few assets may not be commercially appropriate as the prospects of recovering costs, even if successful, would be limited.
Finally, the consequences of a Criminal conviction are likely to be much more severe for a defendant than the impact of losing a Civil claim. Aside from the immediate prospect of potential imprisonment and a criminal record for the individual convicted, the Court will go on to consider asset forfeiture. Confiscation Orders under POCA are a powerful and highly enforceable tool which can be used to ensure that a Defendant is prevented from benefitting from the proceeds of Crime.
Private investigations and prosecutions can progress much more efficiently than their public counterparts and can focus on the key aspects of the criminality alleged. Cartwright King can bring to bear expert analysis on the evidence swiftly and cost effectively to ensure that justice is done.
If you are an individual who has been a victim of crime and feel let down by the response of the public authorities, a private prosecution may be appropriate for you.
Companies and other corporate bodies who have been or suspect that they may be the victims of fraud and other economic crime should seek expert advice at the earliest opportunity. Our team are available to defend your interests 24 hours a day and can provide you with expert assistance in planning, investigating and prosecuting a private Criminal matter.
How to make contact
We can assist wherever you are based but we have offices in Birmingham, Bedford, Bolton, Derby, Leeds, Leicester, London Temple, Manchester, Middlesbrough, Northampton, Nottingham, Sheffield and Worcester.