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What can a private investigators legally do in the UK?

A private investigator in the UK, is able to assist their client in obtaining the information they need to resolve questions or issues they may have. In the UK, a reputable and trustworthy Private Investigator like you will find at Insight Investigations, will follow the rules of the laws that we are governed by in the UK.

Law abiding Private Investigators are usually the ones that have been around for many, many years. Out in the public domain, and not hiding behind fake or multiple websites.

It is fair to say that over the past 25 years the Private Investigation Industry has changed, almost beyond recognition, in terms of what services are available to its clients’, and the laws that govern this in the UK in 2024.

Relative Law (UK)


Does apply to private investigators engaged by a local government authority or public body.


Any data obtained from a GPS Electronic Tracking Device capable of identifying an individual’s location or activities is deemed to be personal data by  the DPA.


Civil trespass by directly entering upon another’s land without permission, or remains when requested to  leave.


A kind of harassment. Such as prolonged or persistent or attempts to

Contact a complainant


A court is bound to take the HRA into account in Trials.

The private investigation industry comes under much scrutiny with few people knowing exactly what private investigators can legally do in the UK? Unfortunately is=t is not as portrayed on screen that has an element of theatre about it.

With UK law, some say we are left with grey areas in what sits on the right and wrong side of legal.

Private Investigation is an industry that takes self-regulation very seriously and many investigators welcome more stringent laws and guidelines. Insight Investigations have signed to the Joint WAPI-IPI-UKPIN Code of Ethics & Professional Conduct to ensure our clients receive a professional and trustworthy service.

Finding a Private Investigator that is a member of a trade association, is usually a good indication of the rules they follow, as they will be bound by codes of conduct governed by the association.

Whilst the law does leave a lot up to interpretation, a trusted and reputable private investigation agency will have the knowledge and experience to stay within UK law, keeping all parties safe in terms of both ethics and physical safety.

This is why it’s imperative that if you are seeking out a private investigator to work with you, that you choose wisely and don’t work with non established agencies who can often adopt rogue practices in order to turn a profit.

If you are at a point in life or faced with a situation where you feel working with a private investigator could be worth it, then it’s important you understand the parameters in which an investigator can operate. This way you are entering into things with eyes wide open which will help result in the best outcome, and keep you on the right side of the law.

Background Checks

With the growing popularity in online dating, where the person on the end of the app or dating site is a relative stranger, the need for more information about the people we are becoming romantically involved with is becoming increasingly important. We often get calls from individuals who want to understand more about someone they are chatting to through dating apps or even in more severe cases, from concerned friends and parents where alarm bells are ringing for some reason.

In this instance we would often recommend background checks and a deeper dive into that person’s history, however it’s important to know that not all background checks and information can be obtained by private investigators. A number of public records can be obtained in order to form the basis of a background check but what’s crucial here is the expertise of an investigator to piece together the wider picture. Taking public records, looking at social media, known contacts, online behaviours and many other elements to build up a full picture of the person you are dealing with.

Sometimes these background checks can be the difference between life or death, in one of our cases this was unfortunately the case. When our client, being a concerned mother contacted us because she was concerned about the wellbeing of her daughter and her new boyfriend, we recommended a series of background checks and research into the subject, this research led to offender being arrested and charged for various offences including arson and harassment, being sentenced to a minimum of 6 years in prison – you can read the full case study here.


There can be a whole array of situations where the use of “tracing” can be hugely beneficial. This is an extremely specialist area of investigation and an area that Insight Investigations has a team of specialists who deal in these types of cases, who have been practicing and enhancing their skills for over 30 Years.

The need to locate someone can range from finding birth parents, long lost relatives, finding a missing person, and debtor tracing. In the case of missing persons we often find that we work on historic missing person cases and our advice would always be to contact the police if someone has just gone missing.

When tracing someone, there’s a number of different areas that our in-house team will investigate, social media profile and footprint, address searches, land registry, company director information, voter registration as well as public and business records, together with some criminal records and court documents. It is often the skill of knowing how and where to look at open-source information that a reliable, experienced and tenacious Private Investigator succeeds.


Surveillance is a hotly debated topic but is completely legal here in the UK. What is important to any reputable investigator is that the surveillance whether commercial or private, is conducted with the utmost respect, dignity and within a code of ethics. Following the UK privacy laws.

That’s why working with an investigation agency that has a dedicated team of specialists, for covert surveillance, often ex-army or police force, who have been expertly trained in this area, is imperative.

Covert Surveillance can be hugely beneficial and no matter what emerging technology can offer, often the most robust evidence of a situation is the presentation of evidence, backup by testimony should the case proceed to court.

Although these are just three of the most debated areas of investigation – as to their legality – there are a whole list of services that can be offered by an experienced and reputable investigation agency. Whether you are a commercial organisation or private individual you can find a list of completely legal services on our website and can rest easy in the knowledge that with our 30 years’ experience and highly trained agents, not only do our services fall within the legal parameters of UK law, but are conducted in the most ethical way also.

If you would like to speak to one of our investigators about a situation you are currently faced with or feel we could assist, even for just advice, then please contact us on the below number or via our contact form 24 hours a day, seven days a week for a completely free and confidential consultation.

24/7 Help & Advice


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