Jeremy Lefroy MP has supported the introduction of the Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Bill, which will provide law enforcement agencies and prosecutors with the power to apply for and obtain electronic data directly from service providers based outside the UK for the purposes of criminal investigations and prosecutions for serious crimes. The Bill was introduced into the House of Lords last week.
Increasingly, terrorists and criminals are using global communications services to facilitate their criminal activities. In many cases the companies providing the services being used are located outside the UK. Ensuring UK law enforcement officer and prosecutors have access to this information is a high priority for the UK Government and this requires legislative change.
This Bill will address the problem of timely access to stored electronic data for the investigation and prosecution of serious crime when the data is held by service providers who are based outside the UK. Currently, when UK agencies are seeking access to data for evidence purposes - and that data is held by providers based overseas – they must seek access to the data using Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) channels. Obtaining evidence via Mutual Legal Assistance can be a slow and cumbersome process and in some cases, evidence cannot be obtained in time to support a prosecution or an investigation
This legislation will allow law enforcement agencies and prosecutors to apply directly to service providers based in a territory with whom the UK has a relevant international agreement, by way of a UK court approved order. This will make the process for gaining access to this type of data faster and more reliable. Each application for an overseas protection order would be subject to robust safeguards, and decided by a judge with due regard for the right to privacy.
Commenting, Jeremy said:
“It is imperative that we keep abreast of the transforming digital world around us, particularly in the investigation and prosecution of serious crime. This Bill will update the powers we currently have to ensure that they are fit for purpose and reflect the importance of international judicial cooperation in tackling terrorism and crime in the 21st century.”