' An impressive bench of leading silks and juniors experienced in both the prosecution and defence of complex and high-value cases... Private prosecutions continue to be a key area of strength for the team' Chambers UK, Financial Crime: Private Prosecutions 2022
' A leading chambers in the financial crime market' Chambers UK, Financial Crime: Private Prosecutions 2022
Corporate and General Crime Private Prosecutions
A uniquely experienced team, their prominence on both sides of private prosecutions within the field of fraud, is unrivalled.
In 2014, the then Lord Chief Justice commented on the notable increase in the number of private prosecutions being brought at a time of economic retrenchment in areas where the State had previously had the resources and the will to conduct prosecutions itself.
The right of a private individual or organisation to commence criminal proceedings is longstanding and such cases span a wide spectrum. Private prosecutions can provide an opportunity for victims of criminal conduct to seek justice, even when the State has neither the political will nor the resources or expertise to do so for them.
The standards applicable to those conducting a private prosecution are of the highest order and there is, rightly, more scope for scrutiny of private prosecutors than public prosecutors. Our experience of private prosecutions, many in the complex field of financial crime and fraud, is vast.
As established leaders, QEB Hollis Whiteman has unparalleled expertise in bringing private prosecutions, providing a forward-thinking approach, whilst strictly observing the duty of a private prosecutor to act as a minister of justice. Our unrivalled experience in bringing such cases also makes us uniquely well-placed to defend them.
Our Corporate Fraud unit specialises in high-value and complex crime, bringing cases on behalf of companies and individuals.
From 2009 to 2017, William Boyce KC and Rachna Gokani acted for the prosecution in what is believed to be the largest private prosecution brought by an individual, R v Somaia. The prosecution resulted in nine convictions for obtaining money transfers by deception, with a value of US$19.7m. The defendant was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment.
The Case of R v Somaia was described by the trial Judge as an 'exceptional' fraud, involving the loan of over US$20m between businessmen in reliance on nothing more than 'my word is my bond'. In refusing a defence application to stop the proceedings, the Judge observed that the prosecuting solicitors (Peters & Peters) and 'the experienced leading and Junior Counsel instructed by them have progressed this private prosecution in a professional and principled way, observing the duties owed to the Court to ensure that the trial is fair'. The prosecution team had the full confidence of the Court, applying standards that are maintained throughout the practice group at QEB Hollis Whiteman.
From 2017 to 2019, members of chambers (Sean Larkin KC; Rachna Gokani; Kathryn Hughes; Katherine Lloyd) were involved, both prosecuting and defending, in a private prosecution brought on behalf of a large gaming institution for the offence of fraud by false representation.
Members of chambers are also members of the Private Prosecutors’ Association (PPA), sitting on both the Executive and General Committees and involved in drafting and editing the Code for Private Prosecutors.
Our reputation for bringing private prosecutions in the field of fraud has made us the go-to set for defending them; as we have impressed for the prosecution, so too have we for the defence.
From 2015 to 2017, Chambers (Adrian Darbishire KC) represented former Gibson Dunn partner Peter Gray in a private prosecution dismissed by the Magistrates' Court as 'wholly improper'. The private prosecutor, David Haigh, was ordered to pay £190,000 in costs, on the basis that they had resulted from the 'improper act' of instituting proceedings.
In 2016, Chambers (Adrian Darbishire KC and Rachna Gokani) successfully acted for a former Director of a British bank who, together with the bank itself, was the subject of a private prosecution for allegations of historic fraud. The proceedings were withdrawn in the Magistrates’ Court.
In 2018, the High Court (Gross LJ and Sweeney J) allowed an application for judicial review against the refusal of Leeds Magistrates' Court to dismiss summonses that had been issued upon the application of a private prosecutor. The Claimants, represented by Adrian Darbishire KC and Rachna Gokani, successfully argued that a private prosecutor is subject to a duty of candour in applying ex parte for a summons in the Magistrates' Court; that the private prosecutor had failed to comply with that duty; and that the summonses should be quashed. The Court made an Order for costs against the Private Prosecutor in the sum of £250,000.
In 2019, Adrian Darbishire KC and Rachna Gokani represented Boris Johnson MP, in the attempted private prosecution of him for alleged misconduct during the EU Referendum campaign. On 20 September, the Court made an Order for indemnity costs against the Prosecutor in the sum of £101,130, the entirety of the costs incurred in the High Court and below. The prosecution had been commenced "in breach of the duty of candour" owed to the Court. It was “politically motivated and vexatious" and there was "plainly no proper legal basis for the issue of the summonses ". The bringing of the case was "unreasonable to a high degree" and "deserving the punitive element of an order for indemnity costs”.
Members also acted in a private prosecution brought by the world’s largest legal expenses Insurer against, amongst others, its former CEO as well as in another brought by a foreign (EU) Company against a UK Company, and one brought in the context of a long-running, multi-jurisdictional family dispute.
R v Alrayssi (2019)
Sean Larkin KC and Katherine Lloyd defended in a private prosecution brought by a casino against a high-net-worth individual said to have issued a fraudulent cheque for £2m. There were complicated issues surrounding the principles of the Gambling Act linked to a civil claim, abuse of process and complex disclosure arguments.
R (on the application of Johnson) v Westminster Magistrates’ Court (2019)
The High Court quashed the decision of a District Judge to grant summonses against Boris Johnson MP for alleged misconduct during the EU Referendum campaign.
R v Somaia (Ketan) (2009-2017)
Successful Private Prosecution: Ketan Somaia convicted by a Jury of nine counts of Obtaining a Money Transfer by Deception.
Haigh v Gray & Others (2015)
Defending Partner of global Law Firm subject to Private Prosecution in respect of Allegations of People Trafficking and Fraud.
William Boyce QC and Rachna Gokani consider the 'growth industry' of private prosecutions and their role in safeguarding justice.