Everyone is keen to protect their privacy. That last thing that anyone wants is to be the talk of the neighbourhood. That said there are times in most people’s lives when an incident in business or a personal relationship can cause a problem. Private investigators offer an objective service; they work for clients gathering information that may not be readily accessible to the individual. The aim of recent legislation is that the title of ‘Private Investigator’ should be protected and no one outside the regulated industry should be able to use it. A respected London City Private Investigator firm we asked for an industry quote from said that “they welcomed tighter regulations as that will help keep the professional image of the industry”.
Private Investigators often mount surveillance in order to gather evidence pertaining to the task they have been given. The ease with which data on a specific individual can be gathered merely by the use of a laptop makes that task far less demanding. It makes the need for industry regulation even more urgent. The Internet and social media have transformed society and the regulations on the industry and data protection principles must keep pace with those advances.
Recent government action is aimed at regulating that profession for the good of all and it will come into operation next year. The Home Affairs Select Committee has reported to the Home Secretary suggesting that the industry needs strict regulation. Its logic is that the people are at their most vulnerable when they need help and hence need protection from unscrupulous elements. It is proposed that it will be a criminal offence to operate without a licence. Anyone who has been convicted for data protection offences will be unable to get the necessary licence.
Security Industry Authority
The Security Industry Authority will oversee the granting of Applications. It will take into account a number of factors when considering an application for a licence. It will look to see whether the applicant has undergone the training that leads to the government approved qualification. That qualification is evidence that the applicant understands both the laws and the ethical standards expected of them. There will be a thorough identity check including one to discover whether the applicant has a criminal record which will automatically lead to a refusal of the application.
The licence will apply to the individual rather than to a company. Staff will not be able to hide behind the accreditation that a company might receive. That accreditation will not be a licence to operate as a private investigating agency as such. The penalty for anyone working without a licence will be a substantial fine or a term of imprisonment.
The scope of the private investigator may well expand because of the cuts in police funding. It makes it even more important therefore that the industry is tightly regulated as more people may enlist its help.
The Home Secretary has realised the need to act on the recommendations of the Home Affairs Select Committee and the new system of licensing will come into force in 2015. If the role of the private investigator is expanded as many people predict the changes will certainly be popular with those vulnerable people in need of some assistance in tackling a problem.