Information for competent authorities abroad (and in the UK) about obtaining evidence within the UK (or abroad) to assist in criminal investigations or proceedings.
Mutual legal assistance (MLA) is a method of cooperation between states for obtaining assistance in the investigation or prosecution of criminal offences. MLA is generally used for obtaining material that cannot be obtained on a police cooperation basis, particularly enquiries that require coercive means. Requests are made by a formal international Letter of Request (LOR). In civil law jurisdictions these are also referred to as ‘Commission Rogatoire’. This assistance is usually requested by courts or prosecutors and is also referred to as ‘judicial cooperation’.
Requesting MLA from the UK
The UK is able to provide a wide range of assistance. The Home Office has produced detailed MLA guidelines, which are translated into Polish and Turkish, for foreign authorities who wish to make a MLA request to the UK.
Where to send your requests
The UK uses central authorities to coordinate MLA requests. This page provides contact details of all UK central authorities.
MLA requests in England and Wales and Northern Ireland
The UK Central Authority (UKCA) coordinates MLA requests in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, except for tax and fiscal customs criminal matters which are coordinated by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). Information on making MLA requests relating to tax and fiscal customs matters is set out below.
The UKCA encourages requests by email, via secure channels of communication, to UKCA-ILOR@homeoffice.gov.uk.
For requests relating to road traffic offences only, contact UKCA-RoadTrafficOffences@homeoffice.gov.uk.
For requests relating to asset forfeiture and confiscation only, contact UKCA-AFC@homeoffice.gov.uk.
Where sending requests by email is not possible, and if physical transmission is necessary, requests can be sent to the following postal address, ensuring these are clearly marked as Asset Forfeiture and Confiscation, Road Traffic Offences or MLA, as applicable:
UK Central Authority
Public Safety Group
2nd Floor, Peel Building
2 Marsham Street
Telephone: +44 (0)207 035 4040
MLA requests in England, Wales and Northern Ireland relating to tax and fiscal customs matters
MLA requests of a tax and fiscal customs nature should be sent to HM Revenue and Customs:
Criminal Law Advisory Team
Mutual Legal Assistance
Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs
Solicitors Office and Legal Services
100 Parliament Street
SW1A 2 BQ
Telephone: +44 (0)3000 586324
All MLA requests relating to Scotland
Requests seeking assistance solely from Scotland should be sent directly to the Crown Office in Edinburgh (unless the treaty states that requests should be sent to the Home Office).
International Co-operation Unit
25 Chambers Street
Telephone: +44 (0)131 243 8152
Fax: +44 (0)131 243 8153
Restraint and confiscation
Following the end of the transition period at 11pm on 31 December 2020, the provisions of the European Union’s Framework Decisions 2003/577/JHA (on Mutual Recognition of Freezing Orders) and 2006/783/JHA (on Mutual Recognition of Confiscation Orders) and the replacement Regulation 2018/1805, no longer apply to the UK.
Requests for assistance in relation to restraint and confiscation should be made under the provisions of Title XI of Part 3 of the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement using the forms at Annex LAW-8.
Requests for cooperation under this part of the Agreement should be sent to the following central authorities:
For England, Wales and Northern Ireland
UK Central Authority Email: UKCA-AFC@homeoffice.gov.uk
For tax matters and fiscal customs matters in England & Wales and Northern Ireland
Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs Email: email@example.com
Email for very urgent cases only: firstname.lastname@example.org
International Cooperation Unit, Crown Office Email: email@example.com
MLA requests from European Union Member States
The UK left the European Union (EU) on 31 January 2020. After the end of the Transition Period at 11pm on 31 December 2020, the following no longer apply to the UK:
- the European Investigation Order (EIO)
- the 2000 Convention and related Protocol on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters
Therefore, an EIO can no longer be issued to obtain evidence located in the UK or to obtain evidence located in EU member states for use in UK criminal investigations or proceedings.
However, in line with the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, EIOs received before 11pm on 31 December 2020 will be processed as EIOs. Any EIO received after this time will be processed as a mutual legal assistance (MLA) request, unless the Requesting State objects.
Service of process/procedural documents
Direct transmission of procedural documents
Procedural documents may be sent directly by the requesting authority to the persons in the UK to whom they are addressed. Procedural documents should always be posted, unless this is not legally possible under the domestic law of the requesting authority.
Requests for service of process/procedural documents
A request may be made to the UK Central Authority or the Crown Office for the service of procedural documents (for example, a summons or judgment) issued by a court or authority in that state in relation to criminal proceedings.
HMRC is not a central authority for the purposes of the service of documents.
To enable service to take place please ensure the return date for summonses is at least 6 weeks from the date of receipt in the UK Central Authority to enable service to take place, otherwise the papers will be returned to the requesting state.
Transfer of Proceedings
The UK is not a signatory to the European Convention on the Transfer of Proceedings in Criminal Matters and has a reservation under Article 21 of the Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters.
Requests for transfer of proceedings will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Further information can be found in the MLA guidelines.
Requests for the exchange of criminal records
EU Member States are able to exchange criminal record information directly with the United Kingdom via the UK’s Criminal Record Information System (UK-CRIS).
Title IX in Part 3 of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement provides for the exchange of criminal records data between the UK and individual EU Member States through a shared infrastructure, supplementing Articles 13 and 22(2) of the 1959 European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters and its Additional Protocols.
The arrangements include streamlined and time-limited processes for exchanging criminal records information and specify that information can be exchanged for crime prevention and safeguarding purposes. Shared technical infrastructure is also in place meaning requests can still be made by EU Member States via ECRIS.
The UK has declared that the central authority to which requests for conviction information should be made is the ACRO Criminal Records Office (ACRO) – the UK Central Authority for the Exchange of Criminal Records. As such, European Union Member States should send requests for criminal records to ACRO as they did under the previous agreement.
Requests for mutual legal assistance to the UK relating to international civil and family law matters are dealt with separately. Further information can be found in the MLA guidelines.
Requests for Civil Asset Recovery
Requests for the restraint or recovery of assets on a non-conviction (civil) basis (for example where it has not been possible to secure a conviction) can be made through MLA channels. The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and related legislation provides a suite of investigative powers to enable agencies in the UK to secure evidence for the purposes of civil asset recovery.
This legislation also permits the UK to assist overseas authorities who request formal assistance for non-conviction based restraint and recovery. Requests for such assistance should be sent to the relevant central authority.
Obtaining MLA from overseas
MLA requests from the UK for evidence must be issued by a court or a designated prosecuting authority. A court may issue requests on behalf of the defence once proceedings have been instituted.
Courts and designated prosecuting authorities in the UK:
- Magistrates’ Courts, the Crown Courts and the High Court
- Attorney General for England and Wales
- Director of Public Prosecutions and any Crown Prosecutor
- Director and any designated member of the Serious Fraud Office
- Environment Agency
- Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills in respect of his function of investigating and prosecuting offences
- Secretary of State for Health
- Secretary of State for Transport
- Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
- District Courts and Sheriff Courts and the High Court of Justiciary
- Lord Advocate of Scotland
- Procurator Fiscal
- Attorney General for Northern Ireland
- Director of Public Prosecutions in Northern Ireland
- Financial Services Authority
- ACRO Criminal Records Office (ACRO)
The designated authorities listed above are able to send MLA requests to the relevant judicial authority in countries that have implemented the relevant sections (Article 15) of the 1959 European Convention on Mutual Assistance, without the request going through a central authority in the UK. However, direct transmission from the UK is not possible for:
- requests for the transfer of a prisoner to appear in court or assist an investigation
- requests for bank account monitoring or customer information
- states where domestic legislation does not allow for it
Case-handling arrangements in the UK Central Authority
If accepted, a new request will be allocated to a caseworker who will write to the requesting authority to acknowledge receipt and introduce themselves as the point of contact on the case.
The caseworker will provide the UKCA reference number. This is specific to the individual case and should be quoted in all correspondence. Please direct all queries to the allocated caseworker in the first instance.
If the UKCA reference number is not known, please ensure sufficient details are provided to enable identification of the request. Please include the name of the subject of the request, the issuing authorities reference number and where applicable the operation name.
Please note that in the absence of a secure email link, the UKCA is unable to discuss personally identifiable details of a request by email.
Returns and referrals
If the UKCA considers that the letter of request does not contain enough information, it will either be returned to the requesting authority with the issues identified or a request for further information will be sent. When responding please ensure the identified issues raised by the UKCA have been addressed, and the UKCA reference number is provided.
Where appropriate, requests which should have been directed to HMRC or Crown Office and not the UKCA will be forwarded to them on behalf of the requesting authority.
Please note that failure to provide the fullest information possible in the letter of request may result in delays or in a request not being executed in whole or in part. Further details on where to send a MLA request and the required information can be found in the MLA guidelines.
De minimis requests
The UK may refuse MLA requests considered de minimis. Information on the UK’s de minimis policy can be found in the MLA guidelines.
Number of MLA requests received
In the 2020 calendar year the UKCA received 6,900 incoming requests for MLA (4,628 of these requests were made through using the European Investigation Order) and 1,874 requests for service of process.
Please note that all figures are from local management information and have not been quality assured to the level of published National Statistics. As such they should be treated as provisional and therefore subject to change.
Sending requests to the crown dependencies
The Crown Dependencies and British Overseas Territories each have their own legal systems, independent of the UK. MLA requests for the Crown Dependencies or the British Overseas Territories must be sent to the relevant Attorney General or equivalent. Do not send requests for the Crown Dependencies or British Overseas Territories to the Home Office.
The contact details for some of these are:
St James Chambers
St Peter Port
HM Attorney General
Law Officers' Department
Isle of Man
Attorney General's Chambers
Isle of Man
Requests from EU/Schengen states for Gibraltar should be sent to:
UK Government/Gibraltar Liaison Unit (UKGGLU)
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street
Requests from non-EU/Schengen states for Gibraltar should be sent to:
Office of Criminal Prosecutions & Litigation
6 Floor NatWest House
57/63 Line Wall Road
Telephone: +350 200 78882
Virgin Islands (British)
Attorney General Chambers
Virgin Islands (British)
Telephone: +1 284 468 2960
- Crime (International Co-operation) Act (CICA) – the UK’s main domestic legislation for MLA
- Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (External Requests and Orders) Order 2005
- Criminal Justice and Data Protection (Protocol No. 36) Regulations 2014
- MLA Guidelines for Foreign Authorities – guidance produced by UKCA for overseas authorities wishing to make a MLA request to the UK.
- A list of the UK’s MLA agreements
- The European Judicial Network (EJN) – a network of MLA practitioners from EU Member States
- Committee of Experts on the Operation of European Conventions on Co-Operation in Criminal Matters (PC-OC) – a Council of Europe committee of experts in international co-operation in criminal matters
- ACRO Criminal Records Office
- European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters
- EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement