Following restructuring the UK Central Authority is now divided into two teams covering countries beginning with A to L and M to Z respectively. Each team will deal with new mutual legal assistance casework (incoming requests, outgoing requests and Article 21 cases) for all of the countries it covers. Requests received by the central authority prior to January 2012 will remain with their allocated caseworker.
Mutual legal assistance casework
All cases accepted by the Home Office will be assigned to a caseworker and all queries relating to an mutual legal assistance (MLA) case should be directed to that caseworker (if known) in the first instance. The UK Central Authority (UKCA) has a very high caseload 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 request - 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.
Where appropriate requests which should have been directed to another central authority or jurisdiction will be forwarded on your behalf.
Where we are unable to forward your request it will be returned to you.
The UKCA has produced guidance on how to obtain assistance from the UK
Incoming requests for evidence
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.
If the UKCA requires further information from you in order to execute your request we will contact you to explain what we need. If we do not receive an answer within a reasonable period of time we may close our file. We will inform you of this decision, which will not prevent the file from being reopened should the further information be provided.
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. 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.
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.
Incoming requests for the service of process
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 cooperation 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 law enforcement agency has been asked to consider your case. We will request progress reports from the relevant agency and inform you of the decision whether to prosecute.
In the UK, law enforcement agencies are responsible for making a decision as to whether to accept a request for investigation. The UK will only consider accepting a transfer where the requesting state has shown that the suspect is in the UK. This is particularly important in fraud cases where the mere presence of a bank account in the UK is not sufficient to prove that a suspect is in our territory.
The relevant law enforcement agency will also consider a number of risk factors when prioritising these cases. However, you should be aware that transfers are likely to be given a low priority rating and it could be some time before a decision is made.
Once a decision has been made to accept a case for investigation, it can take many months for the case to be brought to a conclusion, either through the court process, or otherwise. In light of that, you are asked to inform the UKCA if you do not require final notification of the determination of the case so that we can close our files.
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