Pavlos Panayi QC has been successful before the Court of Appeal in a case concerning the powers contained in section 222 of the Local Government Act 1972. Section 222 permits Local Authorities to prosecute and defend legal proceedings in their own name, when they consider it expedient for the promotion or protection of the interests of the inhabitants of their area. It is a very broad power, which the courts have been slow to interfere with in the past.

Mr Panayi submitted on behalf of the appellants in R v AB, CD and EF [2017] EWCA Crim 534 that the prosecution was invalid in this case, because it was brought by the respondent Local Authority acting outside of its section 222 powers.

The Court of Appeal agreed, and held that the Local Authority could not reasonably have thought that it was expedient for the promotion or protection of the interests of the inhabitants of the area to prosecute the appellants (and not to refer their alleged serious offending viz. a £4m fraud on the Legal Aid Agency by a firm of immigration solicitors, to the DPP for prosecution instead).

The court made it clear that, for the requirements of section 222 to be met, the alleged criminality must have an actual or potential impact on the inhabitants of the Local Authority’s particular area (above and beyond their interests as citizens of the UK).

The Court of Appeal also deprecated the use of a private financial memorandum of understanding between the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) and the Local Authority as to the funding of the prosecution by the LAA, and the distribution of any confiscation proceeds as “incentivisation payments” (part of which would have benefitted the Local Authority as the prosecuting agency in the event of convictions).

This is the first reported case in modern times where a successful section 222 point has been taken.

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