The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in England dropped more than half of the private prosecutions referred to it in a year, The Law Society Gazette of England and Wales has reported.
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has the power to take over any private prosecution and to then either continue or halt them.
A freedom of information (FoI) request, found that in 2019 the CPS had 49 private prosecution referrals, of which it took over 32 and discontinued 29.
In its response, the CPS added that it “does not maintain an authoritative central record of the number of private prosecutions taken over” and the figures “may not capture every case referred” to it.
Lawyer Peter Csemiczky, who made the FoI request said: “While we cannot know what allegations these cases relate to, it is striking that for the year this data covers, the majority of private prosecutions referred to the CPS were taken over and then discontinued.”
“This suggests that very many private prosecutions are currently being brought to court which are either inappropriate, or not properly thought through.”
Abandoned prosecutions are unsatisfactory for everyone, he commented, since they cause significant pain, expense and potential reputational damage of a criminal prosecution for a defendant.
British administrators plan to cap the costs that private prosecutors can recover from the public purse, following a report by MPs, which suggested the system was unfair and risked creating a two-tier process in which justice depended on the victim’s ability to pay.