Modern states have developed mechanisms to request and obtain evidence for criminal investigations and prosecutions. Where evidence or other forms of mutual legal assistance, such as the testimony of witnesses or the service of documents, are required by a foreign sovereign, States may seek to cooperate informally through their respective police services or resort to what are generally referred to as “requests for mutual legal assistance”.  The practice of mutual legal assistance has evolved from the community system of requests for mutual legal assistance, although it is now much more common for States to address requests for mutual legal assistance directly to the designated central authority in each State. In current practice, such requests can still be made on the basis of reciprocity, but also on the basis of bilateral and multilateral treaties that oblige countries to provide assistance. Assistance may be refused by both countries (in accordance with the details of the agreement) for political or security reasons, or if the offence in question is not equally punishable in both countries. Some contracts may encourage legal aid for nationals of other countries. The UK is a party to numerous bilateral and multilateral mutual legal assistance (“MT”) agreements and agreements with the EU, the US, Japan, China, the Commonwealth and most countries in Africa and South America. The United Kingdom can also assist countries outside these formal agreements or under United Nations instruments such as the United Nations Convention against Corruption. A MLAT typically determines the process for sending and receiving requests, the types of media that can be requested, the format of the request, and the reasons for the rejection. The UK will benefit from continued cooperation with Eurojust and Europol as a “third country”.
The agreement is complemented by a working document to be agreed by the United Kingdom and each agency. For the purposes of future cooperation, the United Kingdom is not a member of Eurojust or Europol and will therefore not be able to directly influence the decision-making process within the agencies. A mutual legal assistance agreement (MLAT) is an agreement between two or more countries for the purpose of collecting and exchanging information for the purpose of enforcing public or criminal law. A request for mutual legal assistance is often used to formally question a suspect in criminal proceedings if the suspect resides in a foreign country. The Criminality (Overseas Production Order) Act 2019 (`the 2019 Act`) introduced a new power for UK law enforcement agencies to allow a UK court to issue a return abroad order (“OPO”) for data stored electronically overseas. POOs are directly enforceable against a communications service provider based outside the UK, offering another way to obtain electronic evidence from abroad. The power depends on the existence of an international cooperation agreement between the UK and the jurisdiction where the data to be designated under the 2019 Act is stored. So far, only one such agreement between the United Kingdom and the United States has been called so. The most important part of national legislation is crime (International Cooperation Act 2003), which has implemented seven EU agreements on amLA in criminal matters.
The 2003 Act provides, inter alia, for the service of summonses and other pleadings in all jurisdictions, the submission and receipt of requests for the taking of evidence abroad, the exercise of search and seizure powers abroad, the temporary transfer of prisoners with their consent to support criminal investigations, and the facilitation of testimony in foreign proceedings. For example, the Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters is an agreement to facilitate the conclusion of bilateral agreements on tax information between more than 90 Contracting States. The United Kingdom has a national legal framework that governs the procedure for the submission, receipt, approval and execution of ALM applications. External links Government of Japan – Ministry of Foreign Affairs – National Police Agency International Agencies – UnODC MLAT Partners – Central Authority of the United States – Central Authority of Korea – Central Authority of China – Central Authority of China – Central Authority of Hong Kong – Central Authority of Russia – Central Authority of Russia – Central Authority of Russia (Ministry of Justice) – Central Authority of Russia (Office of the Attorney General) Assistance Legal (“MLA”) is a formal method of cooperation between countries for the use of cross-border mutual assistance in the investigation or prosecution of criminal offences. Such cooperation may include obtaining and collecting evidence, conducting searches, freezing assets and making witnesses available for hearings. The UK and the EU are committed to assisting each other in the prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing, as well as to cooperate on asset freezing and confiscation of criminal property in accordance with the relevant conventions. .