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COURT DISMISSES RSPCA PRIVATE PROSECUTION

A Magistrate yesterday dismissed  proceedings against the NSW President of the RSPCA, Peter Wright, alleging animal cruelty. Media reports indicate that a private citizen had initiated proceedings against Mr Wright....

Justin Wong

A Magistrate yesterday dismissed  proceedings against the NSW President of the RSPCA, Peter Wright, alleging animal cruelty. Media reports indicate that a private citizen had initiated proceedings against Mr Wright.

PRIVATE PROSECUTIONS IN NSW

Any person in NSW can potentially bring a private prosecution against another for a criminal offence. Sections 14 and 49 of the Criminal Procedure Act 1986 provides for the commencement of private prosecutions. However there are some important restrictions.

  1. The court attendance notice must first be signed by a registrar and the registrar cannot sign the notice if a) the notice does not disclose the grounds for the proceedings; b) it is not in the form required; or c) the rules provide that it should not be issued.
  2. The Local Court Rules provide that a registrar must not sign a court attendance notice for a private prosecution if they believe the proceedings are “frivolous, vexatious, without substance or have no reasonable prospects of success”.

In Mr Wright’s case, there was another important restriction. Under s.34AA of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979, proceedings for an offence under that Act can only be instituted by a person with the written consent of the Minister of the Director General. It appears here that the consent had not be given.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) also has the authority to take over any prosecution of a criminal offence initiated by a person other than the DPP. Section 9 of the DPP Act. This means that, in certain circumstances, the DPP could potentially take over and then terminate vexatious or frivolous prosecutions initiated by an individual.