HC Deb 23 July 1986 vol 102 cc225-6W
Mr. Ernie Ross

asked the Attorney-General what criteria he uses in determining in cases in which he or the Director of Public Prosecutions has decided not to bring a prosecution and where a private prosecution is subsequently brought, whether (a) to take that prosecution over and (b) to enter a nolle prosequi; and if he will make a statement.

The Attorney-General

The power to intervene and assume responsibility for the conduct of a prosecution instituted by a person in a private capacity is vested by section 4 of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1979 (section 6 of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985 in those areas where it has been implemented) in the Director of Public Prosecutions. The criteria which he adopts in exercising that power were set out in the reply by my right hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General to the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) on 28 October 1985, at column 297. His policy is the same irrespective of whether he has himself previously decided not to prosecute. In considering whether to intervene he will have regard to any fresh evidence which may have emerged or new factors which may have arisen since the original decision was taken.

The power to direct the entry of a nolle prosequi is vested in me alone and not in the Director of Public Prosecutions. It is available only in relation to proceedings on indictment. I exercise the power sparingly in relation to cases where, having regard to all the circumstances, it appears that the public interest would best be served by discontinuing proceedings and there is no other suitable way of doing so. My approach is the same whether the application for a nolle prosequi relates to a private prosecution or one carried on by a public authority.

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