Taking evidence in a criminal case

A key element in a criminal investigation procedure is to establish whether a person is guilty of committing an offence. Effective cooperation between EU countries in obtaining evidence in relation to criminal matters is key to efficiently fight cross-border crime in the EU.

Taking evidence in a civil and commercial case

Simplifying and accelerating cooperation between courts in the taking of evidence is important in judicial proceedings.

The Regulation on cooperation between the courts of the Member States in the taking of evidence in civil or commercial matters sets out the relevant rules.

This Regulation applies to all EU Member States except Denmark.

On 31 May 2018, the Commission has proposed to amend the Regulation: Taking of Evidence COM (2018) 378

Impact assessment and Executive Summary of the Impact assessment

European investigation order

The directive regarding the European investigation order in criminal matters was adopted on 3 April 2014 and EU countries had to transpose the directive into their national legal systems by 22 May 2017. Denmark and Ireland are not bound by this instrument.

What is it?

A European investigation order is a judicial decision, which has been issued or validated by a judicial authority of 1 EU country, requesting another EU country to carry out 1 or more specific investigative measure(s) to obtain evidence.

The European Investigation Order is based on mutual recognition, which means that the executing country is obliged to recognise and ensure execution of the request of the other country, in the same way and under the same modalities as if the investigative measure concerned had been ordered by an authority of the executing country. A European investigation order may also be issued to obtain evidence that already exists.

The directive creates a single comprehensive framework for investigative measures with a large scope. The investigative measures would, for example, include hearing of witnesses, telephone interceptions, covert investigations, information on banking operations.

How does it work?

A European investigation order is issued using a standard form and translated into the official language of the executing country. It must be recognised within a fixed deadline of 30 days, and the investigative measures requested must be carried out within 90 days following the taking of the decision on the recognition and execution.

Electronic evidence

Obtaining electronic evidence (e-evidence), such as information on the holder of an email account or the timing and content of messages exchanged via Facebook messenger, for criminal investigations often has cross-border implications, as the data may be stored or the service provider located in another EU country or somewhere else in the world.

Traditional judicial cooperation tools are considered too slow in this context. The European Commission is currently working on solutions to equip judicial and law enforcement authorities with modern investigation tools to improve their access to e-evidence.