Private Prosecutions

If you believe yourself to be a victim of crime but have been unable to secure justice through a police investigation, then you may feel that you have reached the end of the road.

This is not the case. There is the possibility of pursuing a private prosecution. This is by no means straightforward, and it should go without saying that success is not guaranteed, but it can offer the possibility of a satisfactory conclusion being reached for the prosecuting party.

What exactly are private prosecutions, how do they work and when should you consider launching one?

What are private prosecutions?

If the conventional route of reporting a crime to the police does not result in a charge, or a satisfactory outcome, it is possible for individuals and corporates to pursue private prosecutions.

A private prosecution is a prosecution brought by an individual or entity, who is not acting on behalf of the police or other prosecuting authority. A prosecuting authority does of course include, but isn’t restricted to, an entity that has the statutory power to prosecute.

The right to bring private prosecutions are expressly reserved in Section 6(1) Prosecution of Offences Act 1985. Apart from the fact they are brought by a private individual or company, they proceed in exactly the same way as they would if the prosecution were brought by the Crown.

What are the advantages of a private prosecution?

There are a number of advantages to private prosecution. They are almost always quicker to pursue than public prosecutions. They tend to be more focused and as a result are more efficient, especially in cases involving fraud. Individuals or entities might choose to pursue a private prosecution where there has been a refusal to investigate or prosecute a crime. Private Prosecutions also give the individual or company more control over the timing and execution of their case.

What type of offences can lead to a private prosecution?

A wide range of offences can lead to a private prosecution. Financial crime and corporate crime offences are regularly being investigated through solicitors with a view to commencing private prosecution proceedings.


Fraud is estimated to cost UK businesses around £130 billion each year. However, despite the scale of the problem, only around 2% of people who are alleged to have committed fraud are ever prosecuted through the traditional criminal justice system. The state does not have limitless resources to pursue every fraud case, even if there is a reasonable chance that it might be successful. In such cases, private prosecution can be a viable option.

Money Laundering

In instances where a company suspects that it has been the victim money laundering either by a director, employee or another company, a private prosecution can be one strategy to ensure proper redress. Directors or employees in a position of financial responsibility may be able to engage in money laundering. If a company finds itself the victim of money laundering, then criminal proceedings may be brought swiftly, through a private prosecution with the requisite account freezing order or restraint order put in place to prevent dissipation of assets by the accused.  In these scenarios is it imperative to act expeditiously to protect the corporation and its assets.

Computer Misuse Act (1990)

The 1990 Computer Misuse Act protects personal data held by organisations from unauthorised access and modification. Offences under this act most regularly occur when an employee secures employment elsewhere and takes with them confidential client information which is incredibly useful to your competitor.

How do you fund a private prosecution?

Many companies opt for a private prosecution because it is cheaper and less time-consuming than a civil litigation.

The cost of a private prosecution can range from £10,000 upwards depending on the quantity of evidence, the amount of investigatory work required, and the complexity of the case. Some private prosecutions can become expensive if there is significant evidence involved.

Whether the case succeeds or not, a court may order the payment out of central funds of an amount the court considers reasonably sufficient to compensate a private prosecutor for any expenses incurred during the proceedings.

Proceeds of crime after conviction

After a successful prosecution it may then be possible to obtain compensation relating to your case from the defendant’s assets, via confiscation if necessary.

Bringing a private prosecution

If the conventional route of reporting a crime has produced unsatisfactory results, then it may be possible to proceed with a private prosecution. If your business has been a victim of fraud, then securing speedy recourse may be necessary to guarantee the future viability of the business.

At Richardson Lissack, our lawyers understand the traumatic effect that fraud can have on a business. Sometimes, private prosecution is the only realistic means to seek redress, and our experienced lawyers can advise on the merits of your case. The firm works alongside Queens Counsel, Barristers, Forensic Accountants and Investigators, all of whom have experience in private prosecutions to build a solid case before commencing court proceedings. Contact us to learn more about our Private Prosecution Services.

Our lawyers are available 24/7 to assist you and provide legal advice. Contact London 020 3753 5352 or Manchester 0161 834 7284. Alternatively you can email