The private investigator industry is one that has been around for many years and can be traced back to France in 1833, the appeal of being able to assist police, private and corporate clients alike has helped expand the industry to what it is today, a global sector.
With such a wide network of private investigators and detective agencies carrying out many varied services from day to day, it is hardly surprising that regularly it is reported that there have been instances reported of conmen posing as private investigators, illegal tactics being employed to gain results and perhaps the most publicised allegations in modern times, the News of The World phone hacking scandal involving an alleged private investigator.
Leading private detective associations such as WAPI, the World Association of Private Investigators and ABI, the Association of British Investigators, are two of the leading associations built up of reputable members that have offered support and campaigned for the private investigation industry to be licensed. In 2000 the UK Government made an announcement that the security industry was to be governed strictly and that any security related employer, employee and associate would need to gain relevant industry qualifications to comply with new laws and operate in the industry legally.
Around the same time it was thought that the private investigator industry would soon be targeted in the same way due to a vast rise in employment and new operators in the industry. This however, has not been the case, anybody with an interest in being a private investigator can commence trading in the UK without having to gain qualifications or hold a license.
Due to this non-ruling and the lack of requirement for qualification and a license, there have been many increased reports of illegal practice, private and commercial clients being conned out of money and of course some major international media coverage of the seemingly never-ending phone hacking scandal that is growing in notoriety and stature each day. Such incidents must surely be leaving people wondering why nothing has been done before now to govern such a complex and niche industry with at the very least the same attention as the security industry.
Leading, experienced detective agencies and the UK based associations have long called for this and there are many benefits behind finally licensing the industry. It would almost certainly eradicate the majority of the criminal element that has been uncovered and sits within the profession.
A legal Code of Practice would need to be brought into force and would have to be adhered to by all Licensed Investigators. This would or should lead to client confidence in the inferred skills of their private investigator of choice, which in turn may give the Licensed Investigator more access to information currently barred by law.
Licensing the profession will also reduce the amount of untrained and unskilled in this profession that do a poor or, at best, mediocre job for their clients and perhaps most importantly after recent allegations and bad press help to raise the status of the profession in the eyes of the public.
However the one big question would be – does the profession turn to licensing by the Government or self licensing? On the down-side self-governing industries have in the past attempted to form cartel type organisations within, witnessed first hand by certain elements of the profession and self regulation will only increase this.