June 26, 2019

Foreign Prosecutors Ramp Up Investigations into British Drivers Abroad – up 17% to 1,900 

Framework for cooperation between states has increased the legal risks of speeding abroad

London, June 26, 2019. There has been a 17% jump in the number of investigations opened into UK citizens for driving offences abroad, says global news and information provider, Thomson Reuters.

The number of cross-border information requests (Mutual Legal Assistance requests) sent by foreign prosecutors to UK authorities for help with investigations into British drivers increased to 1,900 in 2017, up from 1,620 in 2016. Investigations may relate to speeding and drunk driving.

Thomson Reuters says the increase in requests reflects the growing willingness amongst prosecutors to investigate and penalize drivers from other EU states. Prosecutors have been able to send requests since 2015 when the EU Cross Border Directive came into force.

Thomson Reuters says the number of cross-border information requests, known as Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) requests, have increased more than ten-fold since 2014 (see graph below). There were more MLA requests related to road traffic offences in 2017 than any other category.

The EU’s specialist driving offences programme STRIDER* has also encouraged prosecutors to increase the number of cross-border investigations into driving offences. The programme was rolled out across 15 EU states, including popular holiday destinations such as Italy and Greece.

However, Brexit could result in a drop in the number of cross-border investigations launched into British drivers. It is still uncertain as to whether the UK will be tied into the current legal frameworks for sharing information once it leaves the EU.

Kevin McCormac, editor of Wilkinson’s Road Traffic Offences, published by Thomson Reuters, says the number of requests would likely rise further if the UK signs the ‘Agreement on Mutual Recognition of Driver Disqualifications’ agreements with other EU states.

The UK has already entered into one of these mutual agreements with Ireland, which came into effect on August 1, 2017. This agreement aims to prevent drivers disqualified from driving in one state from escaping the effect of being disqualified in their own country when they return home.

McCormac says: “The use of cross-border information requests has upended the legal risks of speeding abroad – foreign prosecutors can and will hunt you down. British drivers can expect no letup as more and more foreign prosecutors make use of the legal frameworks at their disposal. It can be tough for British drivers abroad as they are unlikely to know the finer details of local road traffic laws in other countries and, as a result, it can be very easy to be caught out.

“It will be interesting to see how Brexit impacts the number of investigations into British drivers as the UK’s withdrawal from international legal frameworks may impact the sharing of information.”

Wilkinson’s Road Traffic Offences is a definitive authority on road traffic law in England and Wales, as well as EU legislation and international agreements. Many of the legal principles underlying road traffic laws in the UK are very similar to those abroad.

The number of Mutual Legal Assistance requests related to road traffic offences has increased more than ten-fold since 2014

*Solutions to Reduce Injury and Death on Europe’s Roads (STRIDER)

Thomson Reuters

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Tina Allen
Senior Director, Public Relations
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Scott Augustin
Thomson Reuters
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