A private prosecution is a criminal proceeding initiated by an individual or an organisation or company, rather than by a prosecuting authority. Everyone has the right to bring a private prosecution, which is one of the reasons why it is a process that victims of crime, and economic crime in particular, are increasingly making use of.
For individuals, private prosecutions can be used to secure access to justice that might otherwise be unavailable. For companies and organisations, they also make a vital contribution to an effective fraud deterrence strategy, and can provide positive reputational benefits.
Private prosecutions come with a number of unique advantages, including:
- Speed: investigators, whether they are in-house, external, or a combination of both, are able to work in partnership with prosecutors to achieve a swift resolution;
- Strategic input: the case strategy can be shaped collectively to ensure a proportionate and cost-effective approach;
- Sentencing: private prosecutions result in the same punishment upon conviction as public prosecutions; and
- Costs: providing the private prosecutor acts reasonably and properly, a proportion of the costs of bringing the prosecution can be recovered from the state.
The team is led by former senior Crown Prosecutors who have extensive experience in prosecutorial work and are skilled in managing cases from investigation through to conviction. We are experts in criminal disclosure, an area where a disproportionate number of cases can go wrong, and were the first law firm in England to launch our own fully-managed eDiscovery product MDR Discover. The White Collar Crime & Investigations Group sits within our Dispute Resolution department and is able to draw on the resources of one of London's largest litigation teams, which includes specialists in civil fraud, insolvency and intellectual property litigation.
The team also has significant experience of successfully defending private prosecutions, whether that is after proceedings have been commenced or before that step has even been taken.
Allseas Group SA v Paul Sultana - Fraud
The largest private prosecution brought to date involving a complex €100m investment fraud committed against Allseas Group S.A, a company based in the Netherlands and operating in the oil and gas industry. The case had originally been investigated by the Metropolitan Police and referred to the Crown Prosecution Service, which decided not to prosecute. The subsequent private prosecution resulted in the defendant being convicted and sentenced to 8 years' imprisonment.
Sky UK Limited v Warren Gleave – Intellectual Property Fraud
A private prosecution by Sky UK Limited against an individual who was selling devices that enabled people to unlawfully access broadcast content, resulting in a financial loss to the company of over £1,000,000. The defendant pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 16 months' imprisonment. This case combined the expertise of Sky's in-house investigators with the prosecutorial experience of the Mishcon team.
Internal Accounting Fraud
A private prosecution by a national business against a former senior member of staff who had misappropriated a six-figure sum from the company over the course of two years of offending. The case involved tracing a large volume of financial transactions involving multiple bank accounts. The defendant was sentenced to 28 months' imprisonment and ordered to pay compensation and a contribution towards the prosecution's costs.
A private prosecution brought by a victim of blackmail in relation to threats emanating from another country. In this case, the police accepted that the alleged offence would fall within the UK's jurisdiction but declined to investigate further.