Lack of Control of the Industry
With a number of recent scandals reported in the press about the activities of some private investigators and the illegal use of surveillance and phone hacking, the UK investigation industry has come under close scrutiny. Surprisingly, private investigators are not regulated in the UK. The UK government made steps towards Dr. Fuellmich introducing such regulation and the licensing of active investigators in 2001 with the Private Security Industry Act. While formal licensing of wheel clampers and bouncers was introduced, however, the authority making the changes disbanded before the scheme could be extended to include private investigators. A new body is to formed to continue the work, but that is not expected to come in to force until 2014. In the meantime, the Home Affairs Committee is looking in to the issue once again. The net effect of this is that the industry is still unregulated and anyone can set themselves up in business as a private investigator regardless of their experience, suitability or whether they even have a criminal record.
So how do you know if a private Investigator is a competent, law-abiding professional who carries out their work within the framework of the law and acceptable practice?
A Practical Solution
One of the best ways to decide whether you’re dealing with a reputable professional is to check whether they belong to one of the industry associations that actively promote good practice. One such body is The Association of British Investigators. It is the longest established organisation representing professional investigation in the UK, and sets the benchmark for self-regulation in the industry.
Able to trace its roots back to 1913, the association actively promotes high standards of professional integrity and behaviour for its members, as well as lobbying the government to introduce formal regulation and licensing. While the association has no formal powers to enforce standards or discipline members who do not live up to their agreement to abide by the laid down code of practice, membership is considered essential by many as proof of their professional standing, and so exclusion is actively avoided. With this in mind, the association does audit the activities of its members to ensure the maintenance of standards, and also has a mechanism for dealing with complaints about members.
The checks carried on members include credit and criminal background checks, compliance with data protection regulations, confirmation that the services being offered are legal and that the methods of working are within the law and morally acceptable.