UK signs bilateral data agreement to speed up prosecution of serious crime

Friday, October 4, 2019

The UK has signed what the Home Office is calling a “historic agreement” with the US, allowing law enforcement agencies from both countries to gain direct access to electronic data relating to serious criminals.

According to the UK government, the move – known as the ‘UK-US bilateral data access agreement’ – will “dramatically speed-up” investigations and prosecutions of the likes of terrorists and child sexual abusers. The agreement will allow agencies to directly approach tech companies, rather than having to go through government channels.

The US will also have reciprocal access to data from UK communication service providers, under a US court order.

The document was jointly signed by UK home secretary Priti Patel and US attorney general William P Barr, in Washington. Discussing the development Patel said: “Terrorists and paedophiles continue to exploit the internet to spread their messages of hate, plan attacks on our citizens and target the most vulnerable. As home secretary, I am determined to do everything in my power to stop them.”

Barr said: “This agreement will enhance the ability of the United States and the United Kingdom to fight serious crime – including terrorism, transnational organised crime, and child exploitation – by allowing more efficient and effective access to data needed for quick-moving investigations.

“Only by addressing the problem of timely access to electronic evidence of crime committed in one country that is stored in another, can we hope to keep pace with twenty-first century threats.”

A statement released by the Home Office says that a current request for information submitted via Mutual Legal Assistance can take anywhere from six months to two years.


Philip Mason
Editor, Critical Communications Portfolio
Tel: +44 (0)20 3874 9216