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E-evidence marks a significant turning point in European police and judicial cooperation

Date

31 Jan 2023

Sections

Innovation & Enterprise

Following a provisional agreement between the Council and the European Parliament last week, the committee on justice and home affairs has signed off on new EU rules on cross-border access to electronic evidence.

The agreement improves cross-border access to so-called “e-evidence” in criminal proceedings and makes it possible for investigating authorities to address judicial orders for e-evidence directly to service providers, like social media, in another member state. Up until now, cross-border access to e-evidence has been slow and data has often been deleted before prosecution has begun.

The European Commission presented its proposals for e-evidence rules in 2018 and the final agreement will now be put to a vote in a future plenary session before being signed into EU law.

Birgit Sippel, S&D spokesperson on justice and home affairs and the Parliament’s negotiator on e-evidence, said:

"The number of crimes committed online is growing. E-evidence therefore plays an increasingly important role in investigations and criminal proceedings. The agreement on e-evidence marks a significant turning point in European police and judicial cooperation. For the first time, national investigating authorities will be able to directly request service providers in other EU member states to hand over or secure electronic evidence, with clear deadlines and uniform rules across the EU.

“As criminal law is only partially harmonised across the EU, this direct cooperation also carries risks. In the negotiations, the Parliament therefore insisted on the respect for fundamental rights, especially privacy and data protection, but also procedural rights. Thanks to the Parliament’s pressure, the member state in which the service provider is located will be 'notified' of the judicial order to hand over particularly sensitive data like traffic and content data, unless there is proof the suspect lives in the issuing state and the offence was committed there. The informed authority then has to review the order within strict time limits and can refuse the order. An order could be refused if the offence is not a crime in the service provider's country or if handing over the data would constitute a violation of the freedom of the press.

“With this agreement on e-evidence, we are turning the corner on a lengthy and burdensome process while still protecting essential safeguards."

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