The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) was established in 1986 as
the principal public prosecuting agency for conducting criminal
prosecutions in England and Wales, merging the existing Home Office
and Police based prosecuting authorities.
Under the coalition government in 2010, a radical wave of public
spending cuts was executed – targeting public bodies across
the board. The CPS was not spared during this exercise, finding
itself in a quagmire of cost-saving exercises and staff reductions,
with the overall budget being cut by 25%. Despite the
government's position that the cuts have had no effect on the
operational efficiency of the CPS, the real picture is quite
As recently as September 2015, there have been statements made
by the Chief Inspector of the CPS, Kevin McGinty, to suggest that
funding cuts are preventing the CPS from 'fulfilling their
public service roles efficiently'. Many professionals
working in the criminal justice system share the belief that
underfunding has created greater risks of miscarriages of
With the Conservative government poised to stay in power until
at least 2020, it is unlikely that the CPS will be granted pre-2010
levels of funding. In the face of falling performance in the
criminal justice system generally, an alternative method is gaining
traction with aggrieved victims of crime: private prosecutions.
Under English and Welsh law (somewhat ironically enshrined in
the same piece of legislation that created the Crown Prosecution
Service in 1985) any citizen has the right to bring a private
prosecution. Private prosecutions allow individuals and businesses
to pursue their own privately funded and personally directed
prosecution against other parties. In the landmark case of
Gouriet v Union of Post Office Workers, Lord
Wilberforce remarked that private prosecutions afford a
'valuable constitutional safeguard against inertia or
partiality on part of the authority'.
Many individuals and businesses are now turning to law firms in
the private sector to pursue prosecutions independently of the CPS
for many reasons, including:
The failure of the Police/CPS to
investigate and pursue legitimate complaints by victims of crime,
especially in usual or developing areas of criminal law
The failure of state prosecutions in
achieving justice for victims
Delays and inefficiencies in the
public prosecutions service and witness care
The advantages of bringing a private prosecution are abundant.
The core advantage is that the individual or company has greater
control over the timing and execution of the criminal case. In this
respect, matters pursued by the CPS do not always take into
consideration commercial concerns of businesses or the personal
concerns of victims or witnesses.
Time, for companies and individuals alike, is money, and a
quicker process means a more cost-effective outcome. Private
prosecutions provide an avenue to achieve justice professionally
and effectively, with minimal fuss.
Freedom is also a key factor in choosing the private prosecution
route, as the freedom to pick investigators, barristers and experts
allow the individual or business to tailor their approach to the
prosecution, with the assistance of an expert solicitor.
Another advantage is flexibility on costs. Criminal proceedings
are generally cheaper than their civil equivalent; added to that,
the prosecuting party can claim costs at the end of the case, even
where the prosecution has ultimately been unsuccessful, as long as
it was not entirely without merit. Successful prosecutors can also
apply for a range of penalties, including compensation.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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