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What exactly does a private investigator do?

With the rise in true crime documentaries and TV dramas such as Agatha Raisin, Sherlock and Strike, it’s easy to think that a private investigator is simply hiding in bushes, sleuthing with a trusty sidekick and carrying a magnifying glass.

Although that romantic notion of a private investigator is what we see on our TVs and the big screen, the truth of the profession is quite different.

In the UK, the private investigation profession is a small and tight-knit group of highly skilled professionals. Some have military and/or police force backgrounds choosing to now work in the private sector, and others have spent years training in the field. A UK based private investigator can assist in a multitude of scenarios and often where the police are unable to help.

But what is it exactly that a private investigator does?

There are a huge range of situations that a private investigator can help with, whether that be workplace issues such as employee theft, right through to relationship issues, online fraud scams and even missing people. Simply put, a private investigator can be hired to help an individual, family or business uncover information and facts which are not readily available to the public, in a discreet and subtle way.

When we are unable to obtain the truth ourselves, a private investigator can adopt a number of tactics and methods to provide the hard facts. This in turn, enables clients to make often life changing decisions with complete peace of mind.

What’s the difference between the police and a private investigator?

Although many private investigators have a background in law enforcement, there are no official links between the private investigation industry and the police force. For the UK police force to open an investigation there must be evidence that a crime has been committed, but often situations that cause us the most angst and distress in life are not crimes at all but personal and civil matters.

The police work towards proving reasonable doubt whereas we as investigators work to prove balance of probability meaning we can pursue a much wider pool of cases.

A private investigator will often adopt a similar approach to police detectives in how they investigate a case. They will gather evidence, carry out extensive research, background checks and in some cases execute surveillance operations to uncover the truth. Working with a reputable private investigator means any evidence uncovered can be presented to the police or in a court of law. If a case needs to be criminally prosecuted or pursued in civil court, your private investigator can give evidence on your behalf.

Are private investigators regulated?

The private investigation industry has come under much scrutiny in recent years. After the News of the World phone hacking scandal, when a few rogue investigators brought the whole industry into disrepute through irresponsible and damaging actions, the UK Government called for industry regulation which is something we at Insight Investigations would welcome.

Although regulation is something the Government is still working towards and private investigators can currently operate in the UK without a licence, there are a number of industry bodies who help the industry to self-regulate. The three most prominent of these associations are WAPI, ABI and IPI who all govern the actions of their members ensuring investigators act within the parameters of UK law and offer the highest quality service to clients.

If you do decide to hire a private investigator, it’s crucial you check that they are part of one of these associations. Similar to how you’d make sure your holiday booking is ATOL or ABTA protected. It simply offers you some peace of mind, consumer protection and ensures you’re working with trained professionals.

What kind of situations could a private investigator help in?

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