Page last updated at 14:20 GMT, Tuesday, 27 July 2010 15:20 UK

EU police plan is 'in interests of justice' - Minister

Home Office Minister Baroness Neville-Jones has defended the coalition government's decision to opt in to an EU order allowing foreign police to request evidence held in the UK.

The European Investigation Order (EIO) aims to make it easier for police to investigate suspects in other EU member states.

On 27 July 2010, Baroness Neville-Jones told peers: "We believe that opting into the EIO is in the interests of justice. It does not transfer any jurisdiction, which is what many might have feared."

But Conservative peer Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts warned that the government had signed a "blank cheque" by opting in to the scheme without seeing the "final shape of the document".

Lord Hodgson said the main problem with the order is that "there is no agreed basic standard across Europe for pre-trial evidence gathering and analysis, no implementation of basic minimum procedural defence safeguards and no coherent data protection regime".

He said that these differences would create "an inequality of arms between defence and prosecution, and that will cover important areas such as proportionality, extraterritoriality and double jeopardy".

Baroness Neville-Jones reassured him that the order was based on a system of mutual legal assistance that is already in place.

"One of the main innovations that will take place as a result of the EIO; setting deadlines for the receipt of evidence that is sent from one country to another. That is one of current defects of mutual legal assistance. In other respects, the EIO does not change the present regime", she added.

Peers first asked questions to the government on trafficked children, the Common Agricultural Policy, and the Royal Association of Disability and Rehabilitation.

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