District Judge Healey of Liverpool Magistrates accused of abuse of process

In October 2022 an information was laid making an application for a private proscution against a proposed defendant, George Vella of Bedfordshire. The application was put before District Judge Healey at a public hearing in Liverpool Magistrates Court.

An information‘ is the legal term used which refers to the application itself which contains the information relied on for commencing criminal proceedings. Basically, it’s a document prepared by prosecutors upon which criminal charges are brought. See our laypersons guide to bringing a private prosecution

The application was put before District Judge Healey and showed that the proposed defendant posted on his personal Facebook page a link to a malicious websites targeting a now adult female (using pictures of her from when she was a minor, around 14 or 15 years old) and pictures of her father. It was the father that initiated this private prosecution on behalf of himself and his daughter.

The images on the website circulated by the proposed defendant, shown pictures of the then minor and her father with a label maliciously stating she was a prostitute and her father a paedophile. Further images of the teenage girl were publish after allegedly and unlawfully being acquired from the teens child modeling website by a man (and friend of the proposed defendant) in the West Midlands (Darren Hogan) who is facing a prosecution for this offence in June 2024.

The images were used in a malicious and sexually derogatory way, intermingled with hard core pornagraphy. Other comments on the website shared by the proposed defendant falsley suggested that the teenage girl engaged in incest with her father and random pornagraphic images depicted two people engaged in sex was used with the intention of making any reader believe that it was the father and daughter victims.

The information (the application for private prosecution) was made by the father, given that he was a target along with his now adult daughter.

There was no denial that the father had been involved in some prior disputes with the proposed defendant, none of which resulted in a prosecution, caution or conviction, although the proposed defendant had been found at fault for making a vexatious claim against the father resulting in a High Court order that he pay the victim’s legal costs (£800), further aggrivated as the proposed defendant refused to pay costs and intentionally evaded High Court enforcement officers. Fortunatly, his luck ran out when he was held to account by a 3rd Party Debt Order which, on taking into consideration additional costs and interest, the debt had increased to almost £1,200,  and was sucessfully recovered from the defendants inheritance.

On reviewing the application, District Judge Healey invited the applicant to a hearing. On considering the conclusive evidence, , District Judge Healey is accused of abusing his powers (acting unltra vires) and he rejected the fathers application stating that the applicant was vexatious.

Firstly, bringing a private prosecution is a right enshrined under s6 of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985.

The courts do have discretion to reject an application for a private prosecution where the application does not propery present prima facie evidence of a crime known to common law, and where a defedant has not been reasonably identified. Both these conditions were met.

The judge does have to consider if the application is vexatious.

Legal writing states that, legal proceedings, (whether initiated by the public or privately), must not be improperly motivated. However, courts acknowledge that private prosecutors often have motivations beyond just seeking justice and seek punishment for a criminal act if it is proven. In the case of R v Bow Street MSM, ex p South Coast Shipping Co Ltd [1993] QB 645, it was established that the existence of a secondary or inappropriate motive in initiating a prosecution doesn’t automatically invalidate it. The courts tend to be hesitant in discontinuing such prosecutions with mixed motives, unless the actions are deemed extremely oppressive. This principle was also applied in the case of Dacre v City of Westminster Magistrates Court [2009] 1 WLR 2241.

Although there could be said to have been some mixed motives (as is generally the case from any victims perspective), DJ Healey ignored published case law therby putting himself above the law stating the the father, clearly a victim of a crime was somehow acting vexatiously.

Given that the father had been published alongside his 15 year old daughter labelling him a paedophile is evidence that a criminal offence, contrary to s1. of the Malicious Communication Act 1988 had been committed, or at least it was properly shown as being prima facie evident (proven by the later issuance of the summons for a different applicant).

Furthe legal writings state,  In the case of D Limited v A and Others [2017] EWCA Crim 1172, the Court of Appeal examined a privately initiated fraud prosecution. This case was brought by a company against its ex-Chief Executive along with his family and colleagues, without the backing of the police or CPS. The Judge initially ruled that the proceedings were an abuse of process due to multiple reasons. However, this decision was overturned by the Court of Appeal, which emphasized (in paragraph 40) the fundamental right to pursue a private prosecution, stating that this right “is not readily to be undermined

The Court of Appeal considered the question of motive at paragraph 59:

“In any event, mixed motives may often be present in many prosecutions. In a public prosecution, the proceedings will be brought in the public interest: but the actual complainant may often be accused of (say) seeking revenge after a relationship has failed, and so on. This may sometimes indeed be the case but the true motive of the complainant may still be to seek justice. In a private prosecution, the complainant of course is frequently the prosecutor. But there too it is well established that mixed motives do not of themselves necessarily vitiate the prosecution: see, for example R v Bow Street Metropolitan Stipendiary Magistrate ex p. South Coast Shipping Co. Ltd [1993] QB 645.

The Court also accepted that many private prosecutions are brought with mixed motives, and that the mere presence of mixed motives cannot be the test.

A second application was laid by the mother of the female victim (and wife of the father), this was put before the same DJ Healey who now had his hands tied and appeared disgrunteled, because there were no demonstratable mixed motives with the new prosecutor, and therfore, DJ Healey had no option but to grant the application.

Conclusion

What this shows is that, District Judge Healey was persueded that a crime was committed, that the ingriedients of the offence were present and that a summons being issued was correct. This also shows that the only reason District Judge Healey rejected the previous prosecution application was simply that the prosecutor (victime) had a mixed motive that District Judge Healey put before his right to bring a prosecution and therfore, DJ Healey is alleged to be guilty of abusing his powers, preventing a private prosecution application that is enshrined in legislation.

District Judge Healey has been invited to comment and it will be published in due course.

 

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