Since 2013, e-CODEX has been active in the field of mutual legal assistance. The pilot project was implemented in the Rhine-Meusse Region where Dutch and German judges and prosecutors started to correspond on criminal cases through the connection of their national case handling applications. Greece, Spain and France were also involved in this pilot.

So far, e-CODEX has focused on the communication concerning the request for legal assistance. Evidences could also be enclosed, but further work is needed with respect to developing common formats for submitting and exchanging evidences between jurisdictions. It must also be noted that several Member States restrict the size of files they can receive in their national applications, which is another issue to be addressed.

The e-CODEX community is currently adjusting the procedure to fully align it with the European Investigation Order Directive which came into force in May 2017.

In parallel, EVIDENCE (GA 608185, 2014-2016) has established an overview of legal frameworks on the use and exchange of electronic evidence; worked on common definitions of the concept of evidence; and identified a technical standard for the exchange of electronic evidence. Cooperation with law enforcement agencies that have not been involved in e-CODEX has also been established and the needs from the law enforcement community perspective on the use and exchange of electronic evidence were closely investigated.

Meanwhile, on the basis of Council recommendations, the European Commission has pursued a reflection on the improvement of mutual legal assistance exchanges. A recent paper („E-evidence exchange platform - options for a decentralised architecture“, a background paper prepared by DG Justice and Consumers, Ref. Ares (2016) 7138350, 22/12/2016) highlighted the following aspects that were required for implementation of a global European mutual legal assistance solution:

  • it must cater to a larger audience;
  • security is a paramount concern, be it related to sending a request for assistance or exchanging evidences; and
  • the solution must be interoperable to allow interconnection of existing national solutions.

It must also be ensured that Member States do have national solutions to interconnect through e-CODEX and that they possess the technical capacity to handle and store large electronic documents. The paper then goes on to offer two alternative solutions that could be offered by the Commission:

  • developing a central EU portal as an application to process mutual legal assistance requests or developing a reference implementation of such an application to be then installed by Member States; and
  • developing a central storage facility for large electronic evidence or providing a reference implementation of such a storage system.

Furthermore a great attention is also given to the need to improve cooperation with service providers, through the development of a common framework (e.g. use of aligned forms and tools) with them to request specific categories of data; and launching a reflection process on possible connecting factors for enforcement jurisdiction in cyberspace.

With respect to the EC recommendations and both EVIDENCE and e-CODEX achievements, the merging of efforts between these projects came as a no surprise.