Guidance

Mutual legal assistance requests

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 receive requests for assistance.

Orders to freeze or confiscate property under Council Framework Decision 2003/577/JHA or Council Framework Decision 2006/783/JHA must be sent to the relevant prosecuting authority in the UK (see below).

MLA requests in England and Wales and Northern Ireland

The Home Office deals with MLA requests in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (except tax and fiscal customs matters, see below):

UK Central Authority
International Criminality Unit
Home Office
2nd Floor, Peel Building
2 Marsham Street
London
SW1P 4DF

Tel: +44 (0)207 035 4040

Fax: +44 (0)207 035 6986

Email: UKCA-ILOR@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk

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 and Benefits and Credits Advisory Team HM Revenue and Customs - Solicitor’s Office
1st Floor (South)
Bush House S/W Wing
The Strand
London
WC2B 4RD

Tel: +44 (0)3000 586324 Email: mla@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk

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
Crown Office
25 Chambers Street
Edinburgh
EH1 1LA

Tel: +44 (0)131 243 8152

Fax: +44 (0)131 243 8153

Email: coicu@copfs.gsi.gov.uk

EU Freezing or Confiscation Orders relating to property in England and Wales

Orders to freeze or confiscate property in England and Wales under Council Framework Decision 2003/577/JHA or Council Framework Decision 2006/783/JHA must be sent to one of the following prosecuting authorities:

Crown Prosecution Service
Proceeds of Crime
Rose Court
2 Southwark Bridge
London
SE1 9HS

Or:

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) role is to investigate and prosecute serious or complex fraud, bribery and corruption cases. This means those cases that are capable of undermining the reputation of UK PLC in general, and the City of London in particular, as a safe place to do business. Orders of a similar nature in the relevant jurisdiction should be sent to the SFO.

Serious Fraud Office
Proceeds of Crime
Serious Fraud Office
2–4 Cockspur Street
London
SW1Y 5BS

EU Freezing or Confiscation Orders relating to property in Northern Ireland

Orders to freeze or confiscate property in Northern Ireland under Council Framework Decision 2003/577/JHA or Council Framework Decision 2006/783/JHA must be sent to:

Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland
High Court and International Section
Belfast Chambers
93 Chichester Street
Belfast
BT1 3JR

EU Freezing or Confiscation Orders relating to property in Scotland

Orders to freeze or confiscate property in Scotland under Council Framework Decision 2003/577/JHA or Council Framework Decision 2006/783/JHA must be sent to:

International Co-operation Unit
Crown Office
25 Chambers Street
Edinburgh
EH1 1LA
Tel: +44 (0)131 243 8152
Fax: +44 (0)131 243 8153

Email: coicu@copfs.gsi.gov.uk

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 each other via the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS). Further information can be found in the MLA guidelines.

Civil cases

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 are the:

  • Magistrates’ courts, the Crown Court 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, Energy & Industrial Strategy, 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
  • Any procurator fiscal (prosecutor in Scotland)
  • Attorney General for Northern Ireland
  • Director of Public Prosecutions in Northern Ireland
  • Financial Conduct Authority
  • Bank of England
  • Prudential Regulation Authority

Direct/indirect transmission

The designated authorities listed above are able to send MLA requests to some countries from the UK directly, 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

In the 2017 calendar year the UK Central Authority received 6,757 incoming requests for MLA (355 of these requests were made through using the European Investigation Order) and 1,967 requests for service of process.

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 UK Central Authority 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 UK Central Authority 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 UK Central Authority is unable to discuss the details of a request by email.

Returns and referrals

If the UK Central Authority 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 UK Central Authority have been addressed.

Where appropriate, requests which should have been directed to HM Revenue and Customs or Crown Office and not the UK Central Authority 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.

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. Do not send requests for the Crown Dependencies or British Overseas Territories to the Home Office.

The contact details for some of these are:

Guernsey

HM Attorney General 
St James Chambers 
St Peter Port
Guernsey
GY1 2PA

Email: law@gov.gg

Jersey

HM Attorney General
Law Officers' Department 
Morier House 
St Helier
Jersey
JE1 1DD

Email: law.officers@gov.je

Isle of Man

Attorney General's Chambers     
3rd Floor        
St Mary's Court
Hill Street
Douglas
Isle of Man
IM1 1EU

Gibraltar

Requests from EU/Schengen states for Gibraltar should be sent to:

UK Government/Gibraltar Liaison Unit (UKGGLU)
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street
London
SW1H 2AH

Requests from non-EU/Schengen states for Gibraltar should be sent to:

Attorney General's Chambers 
Joshua Hassan House 
Secretary's Lane
Gibraltar

Useful resources

Published 26 March 2013
Last updated 26 February 2018 + show all updates
  1. Guidance updated.
  2. MLA requests in England, Wales and Northern Ireland relating to tax and fiscal customs matters - address update
  3. Templates for EU freezing order certificates and EU confiscation order certificates published.
  4. First published.