By Mark Hodgson, Managing Director of Tremark. The Regulation of Private Investigators is going to happen! – or that is what we’ve been told since the release of the Private Security Act in 2001. Since then we have talked – a lot. Then came the fall out from the News of the World scandal, the Leveson inquiry and the Parliamentary Select Affairs Committee inquiry into the activities of private investigators.
Finally on 31st July 2013 Theresa May, the home secretary announced.
‘It is vital we have proper regulation of private investigators to ensure rigorous standards in this sector and the respect of individuals’ rights to privacy.
That is why I am announcing today the Government’s intention to regulate this industry, making it a criminal offence to operate as a private investigator without a licence.
Anyone with a criminal conviction for data protection offences can expect to have their application for a licence refused. Journalists will be excluded from regulation to allow them to carry out legitimate investigations in the public interest.’
The home office advised at that time ‘that regulation of private investigators will be introduced as quickly as possible and the new regime will begin next year (2014)’
Tremark immediately began to prepare, by working towards and being one of the first to obtain both the new certification BS102000 – The provision of Investigative services, and also the quality management system ISO9001, both of which involved our all systems and procedures being vigorously audited by the UKAS accredited certification body SSAIB. Our investigators were also enrolled to work towards achieving the Level 3 qualification for Private Investigations.
Since July 2013 we have waited.
One year later, Home Office Minister Lord Taylor, in answer to questions asked in the House of Lords said that the Government expects the regulations to license the activity of private investigations to now come into force in 2015.
On Friday 12th September 2014, I and my co director Karl Brooker along with Tremark’s entire team of in house investigators descended on the Park Inn Hotel in Birmingham for a seminar on the future of professional Investigators hosted by the Association of British Investigators. The speaker we all most wanted to hear from was Ed Bateman of the Security Industry Authority (SIA) the government agency tasked by the government to implement licensing.
Disappointingly, Mr Bateman was unable to tell us anything more, it is apparent that the government has still not made key decisions on exactly what activities will require a licence or who will be exempt.
In the background I am aware that representations are being made by large organisations and sections of industry against regulation, no doubt with their own commercial interests in mind.
I suspect that licensing will happen but it won’t now until after the next general election, possibly in 2016 or 2017 and I fear that it won’t be to the extent that I envisaged back in 2001 or when Theresa May made her announcement in July 2013.
Whether licensing comes in or not, it is the end client who shall decide on what the market wants, however continued professionalism, certification and compliance come with a financial cost and the market must be prepared to accept that also.
I believe that if the industry can clean up its act, trust can be built and in time, controlled access to government held information may be accessed by licensed professional investigators in their quest to detect fraud and crime and to offer some victims a higher probability of recovering their losses. Residents of Holland where licensing of Private Investigators was introduced ten years ago are beginning to see such benefits. The police in the UK are under funded and under resourced and have recently publicly asked that victims investigate their own crime.
I for one hope that the days of the cheap, unscrupulous, untrained, unprofessional, uncompliant investigators are numbered.