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Crowdfunding The Way to a Private Prosecution?

Crowdfunding  The Way to a Private Prosecution?

Emily Hunt is trying to raise funds through crowdfunding to bring a private prosecution against the man she says raped her.

I read with interest the articles this week about Emily Hunt, who is trying to raise funds through crowdfunding to bring a private prosecution against the man she says raped her. The fund currently sits at a little over £20,000.

The background to Ms Hunt’s case is not dissimilar to the case of Denise Clair, who earlier this year was successful in bringing a civil action for rape against footballers David Goodwillie and David Robertson after the Crown Office decided not to pursue a criminal case against the footballers, although I understand the appeal in this case is due to be heard shortly. In my article on the case, I considered what other options were available to Denise Clair after the Crown decided not to pursue case. I didn’t consider the option of a private prosecution.

Ms Hunt is based in England and therefore there are differences between bringing a private prosecution in Scotland, compared to England. In England, private prosecutions are specifically allowed under section 6 of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985 making the process of bringing such prosecutions much simpler than in Scotland. In Scotland, private prosecutions are rare. To bring a private prosecution in Scotland, the individual would have to apply to the High Court for what is known as a bill of criminal letters. The Lord Advocate and the offender can oppose this. The individual bringing the bill would require to establish that there are special circumstances to justify a private prosecution. Such circumstances can be very difficult to establish.

In recent years, the High Court has ruled that families could not launch a private prosecution against Harry Clarke in the Glasgow bin lorry case. Prior to that they also refused to allow a private prosecution against William Payne who knocked down and killed two students in Glasgow in 2010. On that basis, if Ms Clair had decided to try and fund a private prosecution in her case, I think she would struggle. I don’t think a private prosecution is a viable option for rape victims in Scotland. The situation remains that in Scotland, if a criminal prosecution is not pursued or results in a not proven or not guilty verdict, then I believe the only options open to rape victims are to make an application to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority, a government funded scheme which pays compensation to victims of violent crimes or alternatively pursue a civil action against the offender. As discussed in my previous article, pursuing a civil action is not without its difficulties.

Caroline Kelly is a Partner in our specialist Personal Injury team. For further information, please contact Caroline by emailing or call us on 01382 229111. 

About the author

Caroline Kelly
Caroline Kelly

Caroline Kelly

Partner & Solicitor Advocate

Personal Injury

For more information, contact Caroline Kelly or any member of the Personal Injury team on +44 1382 346282.