Crime and policing – 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 for foreign authorities who wish to make a MLA request to the UK.

Accompanying the guidelines are the templates for letters of request for:

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
3rd Floor, Seacole Building
2 Marsham Street
London
SW1P 4DF

Tel: +44 (0)207 035 4040

Fax: +44 (0)207 035 6985

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

Please be aware that due to high volumes of requests received it is taking longer than usual to obtain banking evidence in England & Wales. If a request is urgent, this must be clearly stated on the Letter of Request.

MLA requests in England, Wales and Northern Ireland relating to tax and fiscal customs matters

Subject to the treaty basis or the type of investigative measure requests, these MLA requests should be sent to HM Revenue and Customs:

Criminal Law and Information Law Advisory Team HM Revenue and Customs - Solicitor’s Office

Room 2/74
100 Parliament Street
London
SW1A 2BQ

Tel: +44 (0)207 147 0433

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 & Wales

Orders to freeze or confiscate property in England & 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 & 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 Home Office 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.

It is essential that the return date for summonses is at least 6 weeks from the date of receipt in the Home Office 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 matters are dealt with separately. Further information can be found in the MLA guidelines.

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.

The 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, 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

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 account monitoring orders or customer information orders
  • states where domestic legislation does not allow for it

Case-handling arrangements in the Home Office

In the 2013 calendar year the Home Office dealt with approximately incoming 3700 requests for MLA and approximately 1000 requests for service of process. Further information on the number of MLA requests received by the Home Office is available.

If accepted, a new request will be allocated to a caseworker who will handle the case throughout. The caseworker will write to the requesting authority to acknowledge receipt and introduce themselves as the point of contact on the case.

The requesting authority will also be informed of the Home Office reference number. This is specific to the individual case and must be quoted in all correspondence. All queries should be directed to the allocated caseworker in the first instance.

If the Home Office reference number is not known, sufficient details should be given to enable the Home Office to identify the request. At a minimum, this must include the name of the subject of the request and where applicable the operation name. It is not sufficient to quote the requesting authority’s reference number.

Please note that in the absence of a secure email link, the Home Office is unable to discuss the details of a request by email.

Returns and referrals

If the Home Office considers that the letter of request does not contain enough information, it will be returned to the requesting authority. In 2013 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.

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 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@jersey.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 & 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