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Private prosecution costs appeal fails

In R v Hull and Holderness Magistrates Court ex p Darroch [2014] EWHC 4184 Mr Darroch and his son were seeking their costs in connection with an ultimately unsuccessful private prosecution brought against them by a now defunct company called Media Protection Services Ltd. This company had been engaged on behalf of a company representing the interests of Premier League Football Clubs (FAPL Ltd) to bring a private prosecution against the Darrochs who had been showing Premier League football matches using foreign streams. Whilst they were convicted of offences contrary to section 297 Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 at first instance, those convictions were quashed by the Divisional Court after the decision in Media Protection Services Ltd v Crawford [2013] 1 WLR 1068 that summonses had been issued following the laying of informations by those unqualified to do so under the Legal Services Act 2007. In essence, MPL were just a private company purporting to act as lawyers on behalf of parties with copyright interests to protect (including FAPL). Because MPS had gone into liquidation the Darrochs sought their legal costs against FAPL itself although it was not actually a party to the original proceedings. They were unsuccessful. The Divisional Court was not persuaded that a civil costs order should be made as the exceptional circumstances necessary for making such an order pursuant to this regime were simply not present in this case. The decision in this case may be of only passing interest to practitioners on the basis that it now must seem unlikely that those with copyright interests to protect will lay informations in support of private prosecutions using parties unqualified to do so. The practice of brining such private prosecutions, however, is of increasing constitutional significance and interest and the developments in this area of law should be scrutinised closely by relevant practitioners and academics alike.


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