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Private prosecutions

What is a private prosecution?

A prosecution started by a person or entity not acting on behalf of the CPS or other prosecuting authority.

Who can bring a private prosecution?

A private prosecution can be brought by any private individual or entity, with some limitations. This right is preserved by section 6(1) of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985. One example of an organisation which has prosecuted cases in the courts of England and Wales as private prosecutions is the RSPCA.

Will the CPS become involved in a private prosecution?

Possibly, although there is no duty on the private prosecutor to notify the CPS that a private prosecution has commenced. The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has the power to take over a private prosecution, while in other cases a private prosecutor must seek the consent of the Attorney General or the DPP before the commencement of proceedings. Either party to a private prosecution may ask the CPS to take over the prosecution.

What happens if the CPS becomes involved?

If the CPS receives a specific request to intervene in a private prosecution, we will contact the private prosecutor, the defence and if applicable the police and invite them to provide information about the case. This will include a full set of the papers on which the prosecutor is relying to make out their case. We will then decide whether to take over the prosecution and continue it, take over the prosecution and stop it, or to allow the prosecution to continue.

When might the CPS take over and continue a private prosecution?

The CPS may take over a private prosecution if the case papers clearly show the evidential and public interest tests in the Full Code Test have been met and there is a particular need for the CPS to take over the case. Examples of factors which may demonstrate there is a particular need for the CPS to take over the case include its seriousness or issues around the disclosure of material.

When might the CPS take over and stop a private prosecution?

The CPS may stop a private prosecution if the case papers clearly show that either (or both) the evidential and public interest tests in the Full Code Test have not been met. Other factors which might see the CPS stop a prosecution might include: where the prosecution interferes with the investigation or prosecution of another offence; where the prosecution is vexatious or malicious; or where a defendant has already been cautioned for the offence.

When might the CPS not take over a private prosecution?

The CPS will allow a private prosecution to continue if the case papers clearly show the evidential and public interest tests in the Code for Crown Prosecutors have been met and there is no particular need for the CPS to take over the case.

What should I do if I want to bring a private prosecution?

Anyone considering a private prosecution is advised to seek independent legal advice.

Further Information

Please refer to the CPS Legal Guidance on Private Prosecutions: http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/p_to_r/private_prosecutions/index.html