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Measures to assist cross-border criminal investigations

Work in the European Parliament to improve international criminal proceedings is continuing to make progress, with the Civil Liberties Committee recently endorsing new measures designed to make it easier for law enforcement authorities to carry out criminal investigations across European borders.

European Investigation Orders

The new measures take the form of a European Parliament/Council of Ministers deal over the European Investigation Order (EIO) Directive, which will allow judicial authorities in one EU country to ask their colleagues in another country to carry out a criminal investigation there. Provisions within the Directive will also ensure that fundamental rights are fully respected.

“This instrument will allow effective prosecution of crime, in particular, cross-border crime, for instance related to terrorism, murder, drug trafficking, and corruption,” said Parliament’s rapporteur Nuno Melo. “It will also guarantee respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

Currently, if investigators want to enlist the help of local law enforcement officials in a cross-border investigation, such as asking them to conduct property searches or interview witnesses, they need to rely on an old and inefficient system of rules. The EIO is designed to make the whole process work much more effectively and will standardise and reduce the paperwork involved.

Grounds for refusal

Member States will be expected to comply with EIO requests where possible, and there are only specific and limited ground for refusal. These include:

  • situations where granting the request would be a risk to national security interests,
  • where the request is not authorised by the law of the Member State concerned,
  • if existing rules on limitation of criminal liability relating to freedom of the press would make it impossible to execute it, or
  • if the Member State believes it would be incompatible with their fundamental rights obligations.


There will be a 30-day deadline in which Member States must decide whether to comply with an EIO request. If they do decide to comply, they must carry out the request within 90 days. These timescales have been imposed to ensure that there are no unjustified delays in conducting cross-border criminal investigations.

The full House of the European Parliament is due to vote on the Directive at the start of 2014, and it should be formally approved by the Council of Ministers shortly afterwards. Member States will then have three years to implement it through their national laws.

The UK has said it will participate in the EIO arrangements, but two other countries, Ireland and Denmark, apparently do not intend to take part.

Other recent developments

There have been a number of other recent developments in Europe with regard to criminal proceedings.

At the end of November the European Commission put forward a package of proposals designed to provide greater procedural safeguards for people caught up in criminal proceedings. These proposals aim to:

  • guarantee respect for the presumption of innocence and the right to be present at trial;
  • make sure children have special safeguards when facing criminal proceedings; and
  • guarantee access of suspects and accused to provisional legal aid at the early stages of proceedings and especially for people subject to a European Arrest Warrant.

These proposals follow, and complement, three other pieces of EU legislation that have been agreed in the past few years:

  • on the right to translation and interpretation ,
  • the right to information , and
  • the right to access a lawyer.

All of these proposals have been developed to help increase trust between Member States in each other’s judicial systems, and to ensure that anyone caught up in criminal proceedings across the European Union will receive a fair trial.

Contact our Lawyers

Our specialist criminal defence solicitors are based in Glasgow and can help you, whatever legal advice you need. Complete our online enquiry form here or come in to see us at one of our offices.