News story

Mythbusting: Sharing evidence in EU crime cases

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

New 'streamlining' rules will make the process of exchanging evidence in criminal cases more straightforward for countries in the European Union. There are a lot of myths about what this means to the UK. Find out the truth here.

The European Investigation Order (EIO) is designed to cut bureaucracy and reduce delays by creating a standardised request form for all EU countries to use.

States will also now have to meet deadlines when providing evidence of crimes to other EU countries. This is in order to prevent delays to criminal prosecutions.

Home Secretary Theresa May said, ‘The European Investigation Order will prove to be an invaluable tool in the fight against transnational, international and serious organised crime. We believe - as do prosecutors and the police - that the European Investigation Order will greatly benefit the UK criminal justice system, without compromising civil liberties.’

Mythbusting the EIO

There’s a lot of conflicting information about the EIO in the media. Here are some myths you might come across, and the facts.

Myth: EU countries could instruct UK police

Truth: UK officers will maintain their operational independence.

Myth: Foreign police will have access to individual records, for example on the national DNA database and bank records

Truth: Foreign authorities will not be able to access such databases directly. To access personal information through our police there must be an obvious link between the person and the alleged crime. Any processing of personal data, such as DNA, would have to be in accordance with our Data Protection Act and the European Convention on Human Rights, and must be both justified and proportionate.

Myth: Foreign authorities will be able to demand the ID of every British citizen who flew to the country in the month an offence took place

Truth: To access personal information through our police there must be an obvious link between a person and any alleged crime. Any processing of personal data, such as DNA, would have to be done in accordance with our Data Protection Act and the European Convention on Human Rights, and must be both justified and proportionate

Myth: foreign officials will be able to travel to the UK and immediately assume the powers of UK police

Truth: Foreign police would have no law enforcement powers in the UK. The EIO will only allow foreign police forces to request that their officers are present during the execution of an EIO by UK officers in order to ensure that any evidence gathered would be admissible in their justice systems.  This would represent no change from the current system.

Myth: The police would be obliged to conduct a search for evidence of crimes that aren’t actually crimes in this country

Truth: The UK would be able to refuse a search request where the crime isn’t recognised as a crime here. This is the same position as under the current system.

Myth: This will place unreasonable demands on police

Truth: The EIO is a simpler instrument than the existing arrangements (which are known as Mutual Legal Assistance). It will reduce confusion and delays by introducing one single mechanism and a standardised request form.