The purpose of this note is to inform you of changes to the way UK Central Authority (UKCA) is structured and what this will mean for you. The purpose of the restructuring exercise is to support more effective international law enforcement and judicial cooperation by improving our handling of mutual legal assistance casework and ensuring our policies meet the needs of our partners in the fight against crime.
UKCA has been divided into four teams, three handling mutual legal assistance (MLA) casework and the fourth MLA legislation and policy. Teams A-C work on MLA casework.
MLA casework generally
All cases accepted by the Home Office will be assigned to a caseworker and all queries relating to an MLA case should be directed to that caseworker (if known) in the first instance. The UKCA has a current caseload of in the region of 5,000 cases so it is crucial that the UKCA reference (MLI or MLO number) is quoted on all correspondence. If the UKCA reference number is not known, sufficient details should be given to enable our administration support team to identify the relevant caseworker - at a minimum this would include the names of the subject/s of the request and where applicable the operation name. It is not sufficient to quote your reference number. If we are unable to identify your case we will return your correspondence to you.
Returns and referrals
If your request for assistance is considered deficient or otherwise unsuitable for execution it will be returned to you. It will not be registered in UKCA and will not be given a UKCA reference number. Please ensure that you address any deficiencies identified before you resubmit a request.
Requests which should have been directed to another central authority or jurisdiction will be forwarded on your behalf.
The UKCA has produced guidance on how to obtain assistance from the UK
Which team is dealing with your request?
Teams A and B handle incoming requests to the UK for evidence. Team C handles incoming requests to the UK for service of process (summonses and judgements), outgoing requests for assistance and Article 21 cases.
Incoming requests for evidence
Teams A & B
Teams A and B handle evidential MLA request cases. New requests will be allocated to a caseworker who will handle your case throughout. The UKCA will write to the requesting authority to acknowledge receipt and the allocated caseworker will introduce themselves as the point of contact on the case in UKCA. The UKCA reference must be quoted in all correspondence.
Please note that requests seeking assistance solely from Scotland should be sent directly to the Crown Office unless the treaty which governs cooperation provides that requests should be sent to the UKCA. The UKCA handle all requests relating to the smuggling of prohibited and restricted items and direct tax. Requests for assistance in other customs matters (including indirect tax cases such as VAT fraud) should be sent direct to HM Revenue and Customs. Sending Scotland and HMRC cases via the UKCA will result in unnecessary delay.
The UKCA has a number of cases that date back several years and our aim is to target those cases where evidence is still required and close all other cases. We appreciate that the principle of legality operates in some requesting states and this can mean that their cases must remain open. However, if it appears unlikely that the UK will be able to provide the assistance requested without additional information from the requesting state we will close our file. However, that does not prevent the file being reopened if new information comes to light.
Incoming requests for the service of process and Article 21 cases
- Incoming service of process
Team C handles incoming requests for the service of process (including summonses and judgments) in criminal cases. It is essential that the return date for summonses is at least six weeks from the date of receipt in UKCA to enable service to take place. If UKCA are not given six weeks notice they will not be able to serve the summons and the papers will be returned to the requesting state. Please note that requests seeking assistance solely from Scotland should be sent directly to the Crown Office unless the treaty which governs co-operation provides that requests should be sent to the UKCA.
The UKCA has a number of process cases which date back several years and our aim is to target those cases where assistance is still required and close all other cases. We appreciate that the principle of legality operates in some requesting states and this can mean that their cases must remain open. If it appears unlikely that the UK will be able to provide the assistance requested without additional information to enable us to effect service we will close our file. However, that does not prevent the file being reopened if new information comes to light.
The UKCA is not able to arrange service of process relating to civil cases and these requests will be returned to the requesting state. The Foreign Process section at the Royal Courts of Justice may be able to assist in relation to civil cases.
-Article 21 cases
We will acknowledge receipt and advise you which executing authority has been asked to consider your case. We will request progress reports from the relevant executing authority and inform you of the decision whether to prosecute.
Contact details for UKCA, as well as other useful numbers and addresses are available on the contact details page.
UK Central Authority
Judicial Cooperation Unit
2 Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DF