The father of Alfie Evans has launched a private prosecution against Alder Hey Hospital doctors for conspiracy to murder, it emerged today.
During tense proceedings this afternoon, Lord Justice McFarlane made the revelation Mr Evans has started a bid to pursue private prosecutions against three doctors for ‘conspiracy to murder’ the 23-month-old, who his clinging to life.
The medics, who cannot be named, have each been served with a summons, the court heard.
Private prosecutions are extremely rare in the UK because of the crippling cost of investigating and pursuing such cases, which can be stopped by the CPS if the allegations are false or malicious.
The father of Alfie Evans has launched a private prosecution against Alder Hey Hospital doctors for conspiracy to murder, it emerged today
Stephen Lawrence’s parents started the first private prosecution for murder in modern UK legal history
After Stephen Lawrence was killed in April 1993, five white men were identified as suspects within days.
But prosecutors dropped a case against Neil Acourt and Luke Knight later that year.
Stephen’s parents, Doreen Lawrence and her then-husband Neville, launched a prosecution against Gary Dobson, Luke Knight and Neil Acourt in 1994.
It was the first private prosecution for murder in modern UK legal history.
Duwayne Brooks, who witnessed the murder, was under the protection of the Met Organised Crime Group as he prepared to give evidence.
But the trial collapsed in April 1996 when a judge ruled key evidence inadmissible.
In 2005 the double jeopardy principle, preventing suspects being tried twice for the same crime, is scrapped for certain offences when there is compelling new evidence.
In 2011 the Court of Appeal quashed Dobson’s 1996 acquittal for the murder. He and Norris were found guilty of Stephen’s murder in 2012.
The parents of Stephen Lawrence launched a high-profile private prosecution over their son’s murder in 1996, but only three of the five suspects were brought to trial and none were convicted.
16 years later Gary Dobson and David Norris were prosecuted by the CPS and convicted of murder after new forensic evidence was found.
A private prosecution was also launched after the Omagh bombing which killed 29 people in Northern Ireland in August 1998, although it never reached a trial.
Alfie’s father said today there is no longer a dialogue between them and the doctors, who they say have not tested or observed their son since his life-support machines were withdrawn at 9pm on Monday.
There are a number of organisations that regularly prosecute cases before the courts but do so as private individuals, using the right of any individual to bring a private prosecution. One example is the RSPCA.
The right to bring a private prosecution dates back to the earliest days of the legal system.
Under UK law, anyone has the right to bring a private prosecution in front of the criminal courts.
But the director of public prosecutions does have the power to stop them if they are considered vexatious or malicious.
According to official CPS guidance, it is the responsibility of a person who brings a private prosecution to serve a summons.
‘You must be able to prove to the court that you served the summons on the accused,’ the guidance says.
Cases have historically been rare due to the high costs involved in investigating and pursuing such cases.
Alfie Evans has been the subject of an ongoing legal battle over his treatment for a degenerative neurological condition
Supporters gather outside Alder Hey Childrens Hospital, Liverpool, as protests continue amid an ongoing battle over Alfie Evans’s treatment
Legal aid is not available for private prosecutions, meaning they have to be paid for by the alleged victim.
According to the CPS guidance, there is nothing wrong in allowing a private prosecution to run its course through to verdict and sentence.
There is no requirement for the CPS to take over a private prosecution. The fact that a private prosecution succeeds is not an indication that the case should have been prosecuted by the CPS, it says.
However, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has the power to take over private prosecutions and there will be times when the CPtS will exercise this power.
There has been a growing trend towards private prosecutions in the past few years, raising concerns about a divided justice system, which could only allow private companies or wealthy individuals to seek justice.