New legislation to increase the power police and prosecutors have regarding obtaining speedy access to electronic data held overseas have become law this week.
The Crime (Overseas Production Orders) bill received Royal Assent on the 12 February.
Previously when law enforcement agencies wanted to access data held by an overseas communications service provider (CSP), mutual legal assistance channels are used which can take anywhere from six months to two years. This resulted in a number of investigations having to be abandoned.
The Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Act 2019 will allow police and prosecutors quicker access to electronic data held outside of the UK, supporting investigations into crimes such as child sexual exploitation and terrorism.
Law enforcement agencies and prosecutors now have the legal power to obtain electronic data directly from an overseas communications service provider, in a similar way to the existing process for obtaining information from UK companies.
The overseas production order would give the police and prosecutors the ability to seek access to the required electronic data, such as messages, files and pictures, directly from the overseas CSP, reducing the time it takes to days or weeks.
Now following this new legislation, the UK is negotiating a further data access agreement with the United States, where the world’s largest CSPs are based.
Minister for Security and Economic Crime, Ben Wallace, said: “Increasingly paedophiles and terrorists exploit the internet to facilitate their depraved and dangerous criminal activities.
“With 99 per cent of child sexual abuse content hosted on overseas platforms, it is vital that we give police the powers they need to gain rapid access to this data and put a stop to the perpetrators abusing these children.
“This act will do exactly that, and I want to thank Parliamentarians of all parties for their rigorous scrutiny of this important piece of legislation.”