Private prosecution

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This page lists some examples of private prosecution.

Prosecution associations

A prosecution association is a private organization that investigates crimes against its members and prosecutes the offenders. They have largely been replaced by public prosecutors. Alexander Tabarrok writes in The Voluntary City, "Prosecution associations operated much like insurance companies. When a member was robbed the association would take on the costs of printing handbills, placing newspaper ads, offering rewards, hiring detectives and lawyers, and so forth. Crucially, one of the key goals of the prosecution association was to recover stolen property. The private good of property recovery was thus tied with the public good of deterrence." Tabarrok notes that merchants would post signs indicating their membership in an association in order to deter thieves.[1]


In France, a crime victim can file a civil claim against the accused, and it can be filed in the criminal proceedings. Furthermore, if a judge in France finds a claim to be groundless, the accuser pays the court costs and damages to the accused, and if the accusation is believed intentionally false, charges can be brought against the accuser.

Other countries also allow some private prosecution. Private prosecution was the norm in England until the 20th century. As of 1986, victims in England performed about 3 percent of criminal prosecutions. Germany, like the United States, has created a virtual public monopoly over prosecution, but Germany has two exceptions. First, a class of misdemeanors, including violations such as domestic trespass, can be prosecuted by victims. Second, a crime victim can demand that the public prosecutor pursue a case, and if the demand is refused, the victim can appeal to the court. If the court orders prosecution, the victim can act as a "supplementary prosecutor" to ensure that the public prosecutor adequately presents the case. In Japan, mediation between the accused and the victim occurs before the formal criminal trial, and if the accused admits guilt and pays appropriate restitution the victim writes a letter to the judge that reduces or eliminates punishment. [2]


  1. Tabarrok, Alexander (2006). "Market Challenges and Government Failure". The Voluntary City. pp. 476. 
  2. Bruce L. Benson. "Crime Control Through Private Enterprise" (pdf), The Independent Review, v.II, n.3, Winter 1998, ISSN 1086-1653, Copyright © 1997, pp. 341–371. Referenced 2013-02-12.