It is an unfortunate effect of the legal system that occasionally, someone may find themselves wrongfully accused of a crime or, through some mistake or failing on the part of the prosecutor, even arrested or imprisoned. While this can be devastating to the victim, it can often be the result of a mistake rather than something more intentional.
Malicious prosecution, on the other hand, refers to a case in which an innocent defendant has been deliberately targeted, and has been adversely impacted as a result. In this article we will discuss malicious prosecution, and whether or not a victim of such may be entitled to compensation.
What is malicious prosecution?
Malicious prosecution refers to a situation whereby a prosecuting body, for example the police, intentionally brings a legal case against a defendant maliciously. It can also refer to the malicious continuation of legal proceedings even after the defendant can reasonably claim to have been proved innocent.
This particular situation is an example of a tort, effectively an instance in which a wronged party can pursue damages against another party. While tort is a wide-ranging legal term, it bears particular relevance in cases of malicious prosecution.
The law surrounding malicious prosecution
The first thing to understand is that, while wrongful accusation, arrest or imprisonment may well occur simultaneously, or be found to be malicious once legal proceedings and a proper investigation has been conducted, they are not in themselves enough to bring forward a claim.
Cases such as these are contingent on being able to prove deliberate and malicious intent on the part of the prosecutor or prosecuting body. There could be many causes for such a case, for example someone might seek to bring legal proceedings against a business rival in order to deliberately and adversely affect their public standing. Since 2016, malicious prosecution compensation can also be sought as a result of civil as well as criminal proceedings.
Examples of malicious prosecution
Despite the Willers v Joyce in 2016 leading to the expansion of the law to cover civil as well as criminal cases, it is often easier to prove malice or wrongdoing in light of a criminal case. For example, the following might apply to a police prosecutor and would potentially constitute a tort:
- They may take it upon themselves to fabricate evidence in order to negatively impact the defendant, or in order to support a false accusation
- Exaggeration or fabrication of a police statement, such as falsely suggesting the defendant was drunk and disorderly
- The prosecutor may neglect to conduct a proper and thorough investigation, or indeed to suppress or alter the findings of such an investigation in order to further their own cause.
In another example, a Scottish landowner recently accused Historical Environment Scotland of malicious prosecution for pursuing a case against him which he felt was exaggerated and aggressive, due to some incidental damage that occurred to a protected monument within the boundaries of his property.
How to prove you have been the victim of malicious prosecution
The distinction between malicious prosecution, as opposed to wrongful accusation, is dependent on the following criteria:
- There must have been a prosecution toward the claimant on the part of the defendant
- The case must have been resolved and the claimant cleared of wrongdoing
- The case in question has to have been brought against the claimant despite a lack of clear evidence or probable cause
- There must have been some malicious intent on the part of the defendant, be aware that is generally the hardest aspect to prove as simple negligence or error is not sufficient
- The claimant must have suffered either material or non-material damage
The two most important criteria to remember are that the initial case must have been fully resolved, as malicious prosecution cases cannot be brought in the case of ongoing proceedings, and that negligence or error on the part of the prosecutor will not be enough to prove a case.
Who can claim for malicious prosecution?
If you have been prosecuted by the Police and Crown Prosecution Service but later found not guilty, and believe the police have pursued a case against you without reasonable and probable cause, you could be entitled to claim compensation. You need to be able to prove that the police had a wrongful motive for pursuing a case against you to have a chance of making a malicious prosecution case. This is a difficult thing to prove, which is why you need experts on your side. Our actions against the police solicitors will be able to assess your case and let you know if you have grounds to make a malicious prosecution claim, or if there are any other claims which you could pursue.
This question in part goes back to the Willers v Joyce ruling. Whereas before a claimant would have had to been victim of a malicious criminal case, the law has since been expanded to include civil cases. The case itself revolved around the director of a leisure company, Mr. Willers, being first dismissed and subsequently, maliciously, sued for breach of contract and fiduciary duties. While this has been noted as a landmark case, it also provides a useful insight into the sort of situation that might lead to a successful compensation claim in this area. In this instance there was a clear and deliberate attempt to do reputational and financial damage to the claimant, by a defendant proved to have malicious intentions.
HNK Solicitors can help with your malicious prosecution compensation claim
If you believe you have been the victim of malicious prosecution, get in touch with HNK Solicitors today. Email us at email@example.com, give us a call on 0151 668 0813 or fill in the enquiry form on our website and one of our advisors will be in touch. We are experts in the field of malicious prosecution claims and can help you to get the compensation you deserve.
We offer a no-win, no-fee service which means you don’t have to pay a penny upfront to start your claim. Contact us today to organise a free consultation where we will assess the details of your case and be able to inform you if you’re entitled to make a claim.