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General

Cross-border crime investigation changes 06/12/2013 Agreement has been reached on a Directive that should make it easier for judicial authorities to request investigative measures and obtain evidence in another EU country.

Cross-border crime investigation changes

The Civil Liberties Committee of the European Parliament has endorsed a deal reached between the Parliament and the Council of Ministers on the European Investigation Order (EIO) Directive, which should make it easier for judicial authorities to request investigative measures and thereby obtain evidence in another EU country.

For example, French judicial authorities tracking criminals holed up in Germany could ask their German counterparts to carry out a house search or to interview witnesses there.

This is already possible, but investigators have to rely on a patchwork of rules, some more than 50 years old, which in many cases lead to unjustified delays and additional burdens. The EIO will also reduce paperwork, by introducing a single standard form for requesting help to carry out all kinds of investigative measures and obtain evidence.

There will be limited grounds for refusing an EIO, such as if it could harm essential national security interests, or if the measure requested is not authorised by the law of the member state concerned.

An EIO request could also be refused if existing rules on limitation of criminal liability relating to freedom of the press would make it impossible to execute it.

Provisions to ensure respect for fundamental rights are also included. Member States’ judicial authorities may refuse an EIO request if they believe it would be incompatible with their fundamental rights obligations. This is the first time that such an explicit provision has been inserted in a mutual recognition instrument for criminal law.

The draft Directive will go to a full Parliamentary vote early next year and will then be sent back for formal approval by the Council of Ministers.

Once the Directive is approved, Member States will have three years to transpose it into their national laws. The UK will take part in the EIO arrangements, but Ireland and Denmark will not.

 

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