§ Mr. Campbell-Savours
asked the Attorney-General if he will list all instances of private prosecutions taken over by the Director of Public Prosecutions in each of the last three years; and if he will make a statement on general policy followed in taking over such prosecutions.
§ The Solicitor-General
In deciding whether to exercise his powers under section 4 of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1979 in relation to a prosecution instituted by a person in a private capacity, the Director of Public Prosecutions first considers whether the evidence is sufficient to justify continuation of those proceedings. Where the evidence is sufficient in this respect, he considers whether the continuation of the prosecution would he in the public interest and whether that same public interest requires him to intervene and assume responsibility for it. In exceptional circumstances he will intervene to discontinue proceedings which appear to be vexatious or constitute an abuse of process.
The director adopts the same approach when considering a request for intervention made after a conviction has resulted (that is to conduct any appeal) but in such circumstances he takes into account that the public interest requires that ordinarily convictions properly recorded by the criminal courts should not be allowed bo be quashed simply for want of prosecution.
The director does not keep statistics specifically relating to interventions under section 4 of the 1979 Act but there have been at least three such cases in the last three years. The defendants were:
- Gary Austin (St. Albans Crown Court)
- Eric Miller (Maidstone Crown Court)
- Royal College of Surgeons (Croydon Crown Court on appeal from Bromley Magistrates Court).