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United Kingdom


Official (constitutional) name of the country: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Organisation of the judicial system

In contrast to most EU member states, the UK is a common law country and operates an adversarial system (where two advocates represent their parties' positions before an impartial person or group of people, usually a judge or jury, who attempt to determine the truth of the case). It is therefore an important feature of the UK's criminal justice system that the police, prosecutors and judiciary operate independently of each other.


The police are responsible for investigating allegations of criminal conduct by obtaining the relevant evidence. The police are independent in this regard; a prosecutor or judge cannot control or influence a police investigation. Once all of the evidence has been collected, the role of deciding whether or not to charge the suspect is a matter for the the police officer or the prosecutor depending on the nature of the crime (charging decisions). If the suspect is charged, the case is then transferred to a prosecutor who will attempt to convict the defendant.


Once the case has been transferred to a prosecutor, the prosecutor will decide whether the case is suitable for prosecution. The prosecutor will assess whether the case is in the public interest and whether there is enough evidence to provide a 'realistic prospect of conviction' against the defendant.

If the case is suitable for prosecution, the prosecutor is responsible for bringing the case to court and for advocating to the judge or jury that the defendant is guilty. The defendant will be provided with his own lawyer to advocate that the defendant is not guilty. The judge or jury will then determine where they think the truth lies.


When the case is before court, it is for the judge (or in more serious cases, a jury), to decide whether the accused is guilty or not guilty.

Judicial systems in Member States - England and Wales (e-Justice website)


Judicial cooperation

General description of the national system for international judicial cooperation in criminal matters


In the UK the judge also has a role to play when MLA requests for coercive measures are received, such as search and seizure requests. These measures are very intrusive, so when such a request is acceded to by the UK, the police are obliged by statute to apply to a judge for a warrant. The judge then considers whether all the statutory conditions for such a warrant have been met.

In MLA, once the request has been acceded to by one of the central authorities, it is often referred to the police as an 'executing authority' to ensure that the request for evidence is executed.

Central Authority

MLA requests to the UK must be sent to a central authority. The central authority decides whether or not to accede to an incoming request for assistance and is also able to direct the police to obtain the relevant evidence. However, it is for the police to use their resources as they see fit, so for example, they are responsible for prioritising international requests for assistance alongside their domestic investigations. The central authority is not able to determine the priority of police work.

The UK has three central authorities:

• UK Central Authority (UKCA)
• Crown Office
• Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC)

All MLA requests relating to Scotland must be sent to the Crown Office.

All MLA requests to England, Wales and Northern Ireland relating to tax and fiscal customs matters should be sent to HMRC.

All other MLA requests for England, Wales and Northern Ireland should be sent to the UKCA (based at the Home Office).

All requests for criminal records are dealt with by the UK Central Authority for the Exchange of Criminal Records and must be sent via ECRIS.

All requests for court certificates should be sent directly to the relevant court named in the ECRIS record.

Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories

The Crown Dependencies (Bailiwicks' of Guernsey and Jersey, and the Isle of Man), and the UK Overseas Territories (Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falklands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, St Helena, Turks and Caicos Islands, and Pitcairn) are not part of the UK. The Crown Dependencies and the Overseas Territories are wholly responsible for executing requests within their own jurisdictions. Requests should usually be sent to the Attorney General of the Crown Dependency or Overseas Territory from where assistance is required.

Further Information
Further information can be found in the MLA Guidelines for Foreign Authorities, available on the gov.uk website.


Text in original language, English and/or other available languages of the relevant national laws/provisions of the Criminal procedure codes  on judicial cooperation in criminal matters

 Link to the EJN website’ section on the status of implementation in the UK of the EU legal instruments on judicial cooperation in criminal matters

 Link to the national Fiches belges

Links to the relevant sections of the Council of Europe and United Nations Treaties Offices websites containing information on the conventions to which UK is party

Council of Europe Treaty Office
United Nations Treaty Collection


Information on the organisation of the EJN


The UK’s EJN structure includes 16 members.  It consists of 1 National Correspondent (NC), 1 Tools Correspondent (TC) and 14 Contact Points (CPs).  The NC, TC and one of the CPs are based at the Home Office.  The other CPs are comprised of the following organisations:

• Crown Prosecution Office
• Serious Fraud Office
• Crown Office
• Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service
• The Law Officer Dept - Attorney General for Jersey
• Attorney General's Chambers for Guernsey
• HM Attorney General's Chambers (Isle of Man)
• HM Government of Gibraltar
• UK Liaison Magisrate to Italy - Ministerio della Giustizia
• UK Liaison Magistrate to Spain
• UK Liaison Magistrate to France - Ministère de la Justice

Useful national links

Home Office
Ministry of Justice
Supreme Court
Crown Prosecution Service
Crown Office  (Scotland’s Prosecution Service)
- National legislation databases

Recent national developments on judicial cooperation in criminal matters

On 23 June 2016, the EU referendum took place and the people of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union.  Until exit negotiations are concluded, the UK remains a full member of the European Union and all the rights and obligations of EU membership remain in force.




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