PROSECUTION, the procedure by which the law is put in motion to bring an accused person to trial (see CRIMINAL LAW; INDICTMENT; SUMMARY JURISDICTION, and TRIAL). In theory in the United Kingdom the king is in all criminal offences the prosecutor, because such offences are said to be against his peace, his crown and dignity, but in practice such prosecutions are ordinarily undertaken by the individuals who have suffered from the crime. This is a different procedure from that prevailing in Scotland, European continental countries and the United States, in all of which a public department or officer undertakes the prosecution of offences. A step towards public prosecution was taken in England by the Prosecution of Offences Act (1879), under which an officer called the " Director of Public Prosecutions " was appointed; in 1884 the Prosecution of Offences Act of that year revoked the appointment made under the act of 1879, and constituted the solicitor to the Treasury Director of Public Prosecutions. The Prosecution of Offences Act (1908) separated the two offices again, making the public prosecutor independent of the treasury, but putting him under the control of the Home Office. The duty of the public prosecutor is to institute, undertake or carry on criminal proceedings in any court and to give advice and assistance to persons concerned in such proceedings. The appointment of such an officer, according to the act of 1908, does not preclude any person from instituting or carrying on criminal proceedings, but the public prosecutor may at any stage undertake the conduct of these proceedings if he thinks fit (s. 2, par. 3).
A person to be qualified for the post of public prosecutor must be a barrister or solicitor of not less than ten years' standing, and an assistant public prosecutor, who may be appointed under the act of 1908 and who is empowered to do any act or thing which the public prosecutor is required or authorized to do, must be a barrister or solicitor of not less than seven years' standing. See also LORD ADVOCATE.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)