On 22 May 2017 the European order of investigation came into effect, which simplifies and sharpens up cross border penal investigations with the ability to ask for evidence. This facilitates work between different judicial authorities when evidence is required in another European Union country.
The European order of investigation is based on mutual recognition, which means that European Union countries are obliged to recognise and execute the request of another country, just as they would with a decision coming from their own authorities.
Among the advantages which may be shared with the European order of investigation are the following:
- Create a sole wide-ranging instrument. The European order of investigation will substitute the current fragmented judicial framework for the acquisition of evidence. It covers the entire process of obtaining evidence, from verifying the evidence to the transfer of existing elements of proof, for the participating member states.
- Establish strict deadlines to obtain the required evidence. The member states have up to 30 days to decide if they accept a request. If accepted, the deadline for carrying out the investigation process required is 90 days.
- Restrict reasons for refusing a request. The authority receiving the request can only refuse to implement an order in specific circumstances, like, for example, if it is detrimental to national security or if it is contrary to the fundamental principles of the law of the country in question.
- Reduce administrative processes thanks to the introduction of one sole normalised questionnaire, in the official language of the country receiving the request.
- Protect the fundamental rights of the defence. The requesting authorities must assess the need and proportionality of the investigation process required. European investigation orders must be issued or ratified by a judicial authority.
The European order of investigation will allow for:
- The temporary transfer of those detained in order to gather evidence.
- The examination of bank accounts and financial operations of suspects and accused.
- Undercover investigations and the interception of telecommunications.
- Evidence protection measures.
At the same time, the European Commission is working to create solutions which provide judicial authorities with modern investigation tools to facilitate access to electronic tests.
Once the European order of investigation has been added to respective national legislations, the European Commission will analyse the state of this incorporation and will contact those member states which have yet to take the relevant measures.
The guideline is based on the principle of mutual recognition of judicial decisions regarding the gathering of evidence to be used in penal proceedings.
This guideline initially applies to all the countries of the EU except Denmark and Ireland, which are not participants. This involves an instrument which substitutes existing mutual judicial assistance in the EU to obtain evidence, in particular, the judicial assistance agreement of the EU 2000 and the Decision framework 2003/577/JHA regarding the verification of evidence.
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