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International criminal investigations

New rules being proposed by the European Parliament would provide greater support for police forces in conducting investigations in other European countries.

The proposed European Investigation Order (EIO) would make it easier for police to obtain evidence in another EU country where this is necessary as part of their criminal investigation. For example, if Scottish police were tracking criminals who were currently to be found in France, they could ask the local French police to carry out a house search or interview witnesses there.

Under the proposed rules, an EIO would not be executed if it harmed national security interests or immunities or if the requested measure was not authorised by the law of the Member State whose police are asked to gather the evidence.

MEPs say that it should be possible to refuse an EIO if the measure requested were to breach a fundamental right or contradict a constitutional principle, if it were not validated by a judge in countries where this requirement exists or if it were to breach national rules limiting criminal liability relating to freedom of the press.

A Member State would have up to 30 days to decide whether or not to accept an EIO request. If accepted, there would then be a 90-day deadline for gathering the evidence. Any delay should be reported to the EU country issuing the EIO. MEPs agreed with these deadlines as they should ensure that investigations of transnational crimes are not delayed without justification.