How to bring private prosecution against online harassers
Anyone or any company that is a victim of online harassment can bring their own private prosecution to the criminal courts and be protected from harassment immediately. If you have an online harassment case and want to bring it to the criminal courts you should report the harassment to the police. There might however, be cases where you are dissatisfied with the police handling of your case or the slow speed by which matters are moving.
If the police and CPS have declined to take action against your harasser or if you are unsure how long it will take for the police to investigate or prosecute your harasser, going down the route of private prosecution proceedings might be a good option for you.
A private prosecution brings the perpetrator of online harassment before the court to face justice in the same way that a prosecution by the police and CPS would. If convicted, the perpetrator would face the same punishment by the courts that they would if the case had been brought by the State.
A private prosecution will often be more focused, better prepared and stand a better chance of success than a prosecution brought by the State. Unlike a normal police prosecution, the victim of online harassment has an active participatory role in proceedings. A private prosecution also immediately gives you the full protection of the criminal courts, complete with criminal law sanctions for breaking court orders.
Costs of bringing the private prosecution can be recovered from the perpetrator of the crime if successful and in some circumstances, from the State if unsuccessful.
It is possible to interview your harasser under caution in the same way that the police does. However, you cannot force the accused harasser to come to an interview and in any event the interview should be conducted to the same standards as a police interview. Your solicitor should be able to conduct an interview with the suspect. All the lawyers who handle private prosecution in our firm, are qualified police station representatives and have taken part in hundreds of police interviews. Your solicitor should also be able to apply for a summons in the same way that the police does, in order to compel your harasser to come to court.
A private prosecution is often a cheaper, quicker and more effective route than costly and protracted civil proceedings in the County Court and attaches proper criminal penalties if the offence is proven.
The cost will depend upon the size and complexity of the case, which Cohen Davis can go through with you in a consultation about your online harassment. If successful, we are able to apply for the cost of the private prosecution as well as compensation for the victim directly from the defendant.
Even if the defendant does not have the financial means to pay some or all of the costs, or if the private prosecution is not successful the court may order that costs for investigation and legal expenses, as well as financial compensation that are reasonable should be paid out of government funds. Unlike bringing a civil action, there are no court fees to be paid.
The court might also impose a variety of restraining orders on the accused, even if the court found that there was insufficient evidence for a conviction. In other words, even if your harasser is found not guilty by a criminal court, the judge may still impose on him or her a restraining order to not harass you, which might also include an order to remove harassing posts from the internet.
In any criminal proceedings, the burden of proof is on you to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused has harassed you. This is a very high standard of proof. If the court has reasonable doubt, your harasser could walk free. In civil proceedings, on the other hand, the burden of proof is still on you but you only need to prove that on balance, you had been harassed by your harasser. It is insufficient for the harasser to raise reasonable doubt. As long as the civil court feels that it is more likely than not that you have been harassed by the defendant, the court will find against him or her.
Before making a decision whether to bring a private prosecution of harassment in a criminal court, or to pursue your harasser in the civil court, you should take legal advice from us or from another specialist law firm. Call now, to book a consultation about your online harassment: 0800 612 7211.