Private prosecutions work in the same way as a prosecution by the police. The only difference is that they are started by a member of the public.
Legal Aid is not available to take a private prosecution and must therefore be funded by the person taking out the private prosecution.
The costs of taking out a private prosecution will vary from case to case. The price will depend on how long the case takes at court and how long it will take to prepare it.
The length of time taken will vary according to the amount of evidence available and the number of witnesses involved.
There are a number of stages in a private prosecution. The first stage involves gathering the evidence, taking statements from witnesses and putting together all of the relevant documentation. For a straightforward matter this will not take long, for example an assault where there is just the person who is bringing the prosecution (and no witnesses) will be very straightforward and will involve simply taking a statement from that person. There is unlikely to be any documentation, although we will of course consider all possible evidence such as CCTV. A typical case like this would cost around £1500 for this stage, this would cover around 8 – 10 hours’ work.
At the other end of the scale is a fraud where there is a lot of documents and witnesses. In a case like this it is hard to give an initial estimate without knowing how many documents there are likely to be and how many witnesses. We would charge £1500 for an initial assessment which would again cover around 8-10 hours’ work and would allow us to get a better idea of what is involved in the case and enable us to give a more accurate figure for this stage in full. Generally, an average fraud case would cost around £5000 for this initial stage but for the reasons explained above it could be more or less than this. Every case really is unique.
The next stage would be to draft the charges and apply to have the summons issued. This involves sending all the statements, proposed charges and evidence to the court. Sometimes the court agrees to issue the summons after just reading the papers, other times the court will list it for a hearing to decide whether to issue the summons. Again the costs vary depending on the number of charges, the amount of paperwork and whether the court list it for a hearing. As a general guide it is likely to be around £1500 to draft the charges, collate the file and submit it to the court, plus a further £750 if there is a hearing required to lay the summons.
If the court issues the summons then the matter is listed for a hearing. The defendant (the person you are prosecuting) will be required to attend and enter a plea, either guilty or not guilty. If they plead guilty then the magistrates court will either sentence or send it to the Crown Court for sentencing if it is very serious. Generally, the costs for a guilty plea finalised within one hearing would be around £900. However, this stage is important because the law says you can recover your costs from the government for all work done after the charges are issued. They will have to be assessed and only a ‘reasonable’ amount is repaid. In our experience this is the majority, and often the whole, of the costs you have paid for this stage.
If the defendant pleads not guilty then the matter will proceed to trial. This will take place at either the Magistrates Court or the Crown Court. It is very difficult to say at this stage how much the costs will be. It will depend on how long the trial will take and the seniority of the advocate instructed. A straight forward trial could be over in half a day, a complex fraud can take months. This will also depend on the level of the barrister you wanted to instruct, the very best barristers – QC’s – are obviously much more expensive than someone who has just qualified. We would also give you options of various barristers and advise you as to the level of experience your case would require.
We would have a much better idea of costs by the time we had issued proceedings.
There are numerous ways you can reduce or avoid the costs of a private prosecution. See our guide to reducing the costs 3 ways to reduce or eliminate legal costs for private prosecutions
If you would like an initial free discussion regarding a potential Private Prosecution call us on 01623 397200