Mutual legal assistance (MLA)
Produced in partnership with BCL Solicitors LLP

The following Corporate Crime practice note produced in partnership with BCL Solicitors LLP provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Mutual legal assistance (MLA)
  • Mutual legal assistance (MLA)
  • MLA under UK law
  • The UK Central Authority
  • Request for assistance from the UK to overseas authorities
  • Issuing a Letter of Request (LOR)
  • Using the evidence obtained and admissibility
  • Requests for assistance from overseas authorities to the UK
  • Disclosure of Letters of Request (LOR)

Mutual legal assistance (MLA)

Mutual legal assistance (MLA)

MLA is the process by which a sovereign state formally requests help from another state to obtain information to assist with a criminal investigation or proceedings. This process operates in accordance with international treaties (referred to as 'MLAT'), conventions, bilateral agreements, memoranda of understanding and domestic legislation. In addition to evidence gathering, MLA may be used by a ‘requesting state’ in connection with the restraint and confiscation of assets located in the ‘requested state’. MLA is mainly effected by prosecutors or courts.

The regime for formal requests for assistance under MLA supplements any voluntary requests which may be made—there is no general prohibition on police forces providing voluntary help to foreign law enforcement agencies outside of the requirements of the Crime (International Co-operation) Act 2003. In R (on the application of Akarcay) v Chief Constable of the West Yorkshire Police, the claimant challenged West Yorkshire Police's provision of evidence to Northern Cyprus, which would enable Northern Cyprus to prosecute the claimant for offences in the UK. The court concluded that voluntary disclosure can be made where it is in the public interest to do so:

'There will often be a strong public interest in co-operating with foreign law enforcement agencies to assist them in their investigations which aim to bring criminals to justice. That is especially so in the modern

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