The case of Regina (Gujra) v Crown Prosecution Service was published by the Supreme Court on November 27, 2012 with judgement handed down on the 14 November 2012. The result of the ruling was that the Crown Prosecution Service was entitled, when deciding whether to use its statutory power, to take over and discontinue a private prosecution on the ground that there was insufficient evidence, and to apply the same test as it applied when conducting public prosecutions, namely that a prosecution should not continue unless it was more likely than not that the defendant would be convicted.
It seems that the DPP considers the rising number of Private Prosecutions should equate to the exercise of greater control over matters in the criminal courts. It is a difficult balance to strike for the DPP and the Court as individual motivations will never be the same as those of the state in bringing a prosecution and indeed, the individual’s right to private prosecution is constitutionally protected.
The changing test for DPP “interference” is evidence of this increased awareness and an acknowledgment of the power of a private prosecution.
Prior to 23 June 2009, the test which the DPP applied was whether there was clearly no case for the defendant to answer. If so, the DPP would take over the prosecution and discontinue it; otherwise, subject to the application of further criteria, he declined to take it over. However, on 23 June 2009 the DPP’s policy in relation to the evidential criterion changed. In that regard it became the policy to take over and discontinue a private prosecution unless the prosecution was more likely than not to result in a conviction (“the reasonable prospect test”).
Irrespectively, if a prosecution is properly prepared and well structured, and the criminal court is used appropriately, the case of Gujra should make little difference to Private Prosecutors. Good evidence will always be required to secure conviction, and there can be no complaint about that!