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Crime (International Co-operation) Act 2003

Section 31: Hearing witnesses in the UK by telephone

91.Article 11 of the MLAC allows for courts to hear witnesses or experts by telephone within the scope of national law. This section allows the UK to respond to requests for assistance in arranging telephone hearings at the request of a participating country. All requests will be sent to the Secretary of State, (in Scotland, the Lord Advocate) who will then nominate a court where the hearing will take place. Unlike the provisions concerning evidence by television link, the witness or expert has to give his consent, in accordance with Article 11(2) of the MLAC, and subsection (3) provides that a request for a person to give evidence in this way must state that the witness is willing to give evidence. There is, therefore, no power to compel witnesses to attend the hearing. As with section 30, proceedings will be subject to the law on perjury, and the rules on contempt of court will apply to the hearing, but, except for these limited purposes, the evidence given before the nominated court is not to be treated as evidence given in UK proceedings. Some countries find telephone hearings a useful means of taking routine statements from key witnesses. As UK law does not provide any scope for evidence to be heard in this way there is no provision made here for outgoing requests.

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