A new frontier in the boundary between professional and private life – solicitors’ undertakings
A year ago we observed that the families of the deceased had expressed a firm intention to mount a private prosecution in the wake of the findings from the Fatal Accident Inquiry. Earlier today, those families were told that they cannot launch private prosecutions.
Rejecting the appeal for private prosecutions, Lord Justice Clerk Lady Dorrian, along with Lord Menzies and Lord Drummond Young, said the Crown Office had applied the correct test on the legal requirements of charges of dangerous driving.
The Judges observed that in Scotland although it remains open to a private citizen to apply to the court for permission to bring a private prosecution where the Lord Advocate has declined to prosecute, the circumstances in which such permission may be granted have repeatedly been described as “exceptional”.
Unlike in Scotland, in England and Wales any person has the right to commence a prosecution for the vast majority of criminal offences. They are to all intents and purposes the same as criminal proceedings commenced by the Crown Prosecution Service. In fact, in this jurisdiction, private prosecutions are a rapidly growing area.
The police and other traditional law enforcement agencies have suffered massive cutbacks and they no longer have the resources to dedicate to certain types of crime. In the current climate of austerity, budgetary constraints and crimes of increasing complexity the use of private prosecutions are on the increase.
Before embarking on a private prosecution there are a number of factors that the would-be private prosecutor should know:
Melinka Berridge heads up the Private Prosecutions team at Kingsley Napley. The team helps individuals, corporates and organisations to assess whether their cases are suitable for civil or criminal litigation and supports victims to secure justice in circumstances where the traditional state prosecution authorities have refused to act.
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