ABI Conference Summary

Just over a week ago, Insight attended an industry related conference, held by the ABI at Leicester’s Mercure Hotel.

The event itself was very well organised, with a good range of speakers providing a useful look into what the future may hold for the private investigator industry and the pressing current issues of the Parliamentary Home Affairs Select Committee Enquiry, The Leveson Enquiry and  private investigator licensing.

In the morning we heard from Tony Imossi, the president of the ABI, giving his views on the road to licensing which provided a useful insight into industry views and issues around the topic. Following a productive discussion break Steve Eckersley, head of enforcement for the ICO/ Information Commissioners Office, spoke about the importance of private detectives complying with the data protection act and the law.

The data protection issue is obviously one which needs attention due to the furore surrounding hacking, blagging and other illegal activities over the past 14 months or so. This was made clear by the fact that the ICO are actively looking to identify non-registered private investigators and they quoted figures of around 3,000 as opposed to the previously stated 10,000 investigators that fall into this bracket.

Following the morning speakers, there was a pro-active Q & A session for participants to get actively involved with the seminar and make clear their feelings, again this proved to be a useful exercise in hearing views from the profession and also answers from the ICO before a buffet lunch break.

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In the mid-afternoon, following a business development speech, Nick Smith, the assistant director of policy and legal for the Security Industry Authority/ SIA spoke about the story of licensing and current thinking around the industry about the issue. Obviously with this being a hugely pressing issue for any investigation agency it was with great anticipation and interest we listened to Mr Smith’s speech.

Following the session question were presented to him such as;

What would happen to an investigator with an S55 offence on their record? – The answer being that it would be highly recommended no license ever be issued in such as circumstance.

Obviously this is all up in the air depending on the outcome of the Leveson Report that is expected towards the end of October and how a private investigator is defined.

How will the industry be policed/ governed? – The SIA could not completely answer this, however they did say it would all depend on how the licensing model is set up and whose control it falls under.

Would it be an offence to instruct a non-licensed investigator – On a positive note the SIA felt it would and that logically this would make sense to be the route to go down.

There were also question regarding cross border trading, licensing costs, training fees etc…one thing that has come to light is that although it was an extremely useful conference and many question were raised and answered, it still seems as though there will be no clear guidance until the Leveson Enquiry is complete and the Home Secretary lays down the foundation for moving industry regulation forwards.

We shall wait with anticipation until that day!