Madeleine McCann: How the new investigation will operate overseas
Published 04/07/2013 | 16:48
Scotland Yard’s decision to launch a full-scale investigation into Madeleine McCann’s disappearance from Portugal throws up a number of potential legal hurdles for detectives to overcome.
While the British police are obviously free to investigate lines of inquiry and suspects in this country, they have no jurisdiction to operate overseas.
However thanks to Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties they can request that their counterparts in other countries carry out investigative work on their behalf.
The British police would have to submit International Letters of Request to the appropriate foreign body, which in the case of Portugal is the judiciary rather than the police.
Those letters are then considered and under EU rules member states are expected to comply.
The Metropolitan Police has already formally requested that the Crown Prosecution Service submit an International Letter of Request to the Portuguese Authorities seeking assistance in obtaining evidence relating to lines of enquiry they wish to pursue.
This has been done with the full support of the British Government and the Portuguese authorities have already signalled their willingness to cooperate.
As the investigation develops it is possible Scotland Yard may wish certain persons of interest to be brought in for questioning or to provide fresh witness statements.
While it would be the home police force that carried out such activities, the Met has already requested that a small team of British officers are on the ground to observe and assist in that process.
In preparation for today’s announcement, senior officers from Operation Grange made 16 visits to Portugal in order to ensure that any potential difficulties were ironed out.
If a British suspect is ever charged with abduction or murder in the case, the law allows them to be tried at the Old Bailey in London, even if the alleged crime took place overseas.