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 is the formal way in which countries request and provide assistance in obtaining evidence located in one country to assist in criminal investigations or proceedings in another country.
Getting MLA from the UK
In July 2013, we issued a new policy on de minimis MLA requests. Please read the guidelines in the case-handling section.
If you have any questions about how to make a request to any part of the UK, please read the MLA guidelines.
Accompanying the guidelines are the templates for letters of request for:
Where to send your requests for evidence
England and Wales and Northern Ireland
UK Central Authority
Judicial Co-operation Unit
5th floor Fry Building
2 Marsham Street
Tel: +44 (0)207 035 4040
Fax: +44 (0)207 035 6985 (urgent cases only)
Revenue and customs matters
Mutual legal assistance matters for England, Wales and Northern Ireland relating to certain fiscal matters, such as the smuggling of tobacco and alcohol, intellectual property rights, strategic exports and indirect taxes (including VAT missing trader intra-community fraud) and related money-laundering, should be sent to:
HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC)
Mutual Legal Assistance
100 Parliament Street
London SW1A 2BQ
Tel: +44 20 7147 3843/3277
Fax: +44 20 7147 0433
International Co-operation Unit
25 Chambers Street
Tel: +44 131 243 8152
Fax: +44 131 243 8153
- Requests seeking assistance solely from Scotland should be sent directly to the Crown Office in Edinburgh, unless the treaty that governs the cooperation provides that requests should be sent to the UKCA
Service of process 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 UKCA or the Scottish Crown Office for the service of procedural documents (for example, a summons or judgement) 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.
It is essential that the return date for summonses is at least 6 weeks from the date of receipt in UKCA to enable service to take place. If UKCA are not given 6 weeks notice they will not be able to serve the summons and 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.
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). UKCA does not deal with these requests. Please refer to section 7 of the MLA guidelines for further information.
Requests for mutual legal assistance to the UK relating to international civil matters should be sent to:
Foreign Process Section
Royal Courts of Justice
Obtaining MLA from overseas
Requests from the UK may be issued by courts and designated prosecuting authorities. Courts may issue requests on behalf of the defence once proceedings have been instituted.
The designated 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, 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
- 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
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 restraint and confiscation
- requests for the transfer of a prisoner to appear in court or assist an investigation
- requests for account monitoring orders or customer information orders
- states where domestic legislation does not allow for it
When sending direct a notification or a copy of the request must be sent to the UKCA Further guidance on obtaining MLA from overseas can be found on the Crown Prosection Service website.
Case-handling arrangements in UKCA
On average, the UKCA deals with approximately 5,000 MLA requests a year.
If accepted, new requests will be allocated to a caseworker who will handle the case throughout. The UKCA will write to the requesting authority to acknowledge receipt and the allocated caseworker will introduce themselves as the point of contact on the case.
The requesting authority will also be informed of the UKCA reference number. This must be quoted in all correspondence and all queries relating to MLA case should be directed to the allocated caseworker in the first instance.
If the UKCA reference number is not known, sufficient details should be given to enable our administration support team to identify the request - at a minimum, this would include the names of the subject/s of the request and where applicable the operation name. It is not sufficient to quote the requesting authority reference number.
Please note that in the absence of a secure email link, the UKCA is unable to discuss the 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 be returned to you. In 2012, over 1,000 requests were returned due to insufficient information being provided. Please ensure that you address all identified issues before you resubmit a request.
Where appropriate, requests which should have been directed to another central authority in the UK will be forwarded on behalf of the requesting authority.
Where we are unable to forward a request it will be returned to the requesting authority.
De minimis requests
The UK is committed to assisting investigative, prosecuting and judicial authorities in combating international crime and is able to provide a wide range of MLA, however the high volume of incoming requests has led to consideration of the way requests which could be considered de minimis (disproportionate or trivial) are dealt with.
As of 15 July 2013, de minimis MLA requests may be refused by the UKCA. The following criteria will be used to determine whether a request for MLA is considered de minimis:
- there has been a financial loss or gain or damage of less than £1,000
- the alleged offence was committed more than 10 years ago (and there is no, or insufficient, explanation for the delay in investigation or prosecution)
- there are no aggravating circumstances to the conduct under investigation
- a prosecuting authority in the UK would not send a request in similar circumstances
In addition to the criteria listed above, the following factors will also be considered:
- the request is for a coercive investigative measure
- there are resource implications to executing authorities (for example, a large number of witness statements are required over a large geographical area)
Sending requests to crown dependencies or overseas territories
Requests to the Channel Islands, Isle of Man and Gibraltar should not be sent to the UKCA, International Co-operation Unit in Scotland or HMRC. Contact addresses can be found below.
HM Attorney General
St James Chambers
St Peter Port
HM Attorney General
Law Officers' Department
Isle of Man
Attorney General's Chambers
St Mary's Court
Isle of Man
Requests from EU/Schengen states for Gibraltar should be sent to:
UK Government/Gibraltar Liaison Unit (UKGGLU)
Foreign & Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street
Requests from non-EU/Schengen states for Gibraltar should be sent to:
Attorney General's Chambers
Joshua Hassan House
Please check the MLA guidelines for details on overseas territories.