Private Investigators

Written evidence submitted by Bisio Training [PI09]


The regulation of private investigators has not been introduced since the establishment of the Private Security Industry Act 2001 for the main perceived reasons that it is simply too difficult and expensive. A few years ago when engaged in a scoping exercise with Edexcel awarding body to create a professional investigator standard qualification being sought by the SIA, my company was led to believe that a minimum of 10,000 operatives throughout the UK would need training/testing to meet the basic standards desired. This was a conservative estimate and could easily be doubled if it included financial investigators, investigative journalists etc. The logistics of providing training and assessment of training needs, followed by the attendance at examination centres to achieve the award, leading to a licence seemed beyond the capability of such a loosely organised industry. However, my training company has addressed this and are currently accredited by EDI awarding body for the training to meet the Level 3 Professional Investigators Award, which has been approved by the SIA as meeting the standard for potential licensing. Bisio Training Ltd recently launched an online e-learning modular training programme for professional investigators and in December 2011 all nine of our first candidates successfully completed the programme and online examination gaining the Level 3 Award. Incidentally, we currently have an overseas learner registered on the programme demonstrating the flexibility of online training.

The case for statutory regulation appears to have been made by various well- reported incidents in the media over several years, the Guardian (Nick Davies) has been very informative on such cases, including some allegations stretching back to the 1980’s surrounding the murder of a private investigator in London. I was a serving CID officer in Bath at the time and heard gossip from Metropolitan detectives I met in those days that caused me to be concerned about the private security industry. When setting up my investigative training company with my partners ten years ago I was quite adamant that we would only train public authority investigators or those regulated by the FSA etc. We studiously avoided training the unregulated private investigator sector. The incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights into domestic law via the Human Rights Act 1998 had a massive effect on police investigators and during my secondment to the National Crime Faculty in 1998 I was instrumental in designing training for senior investigating officers in major crime that was compatible with guaranteed human rights and freedoms. I was therefore aware when I retired from the police service in 2001 of the importance that all investigative training should incorporate human rights issues particularly those of Article 6 and Article 8 to ensure the fairness and admissibility of evidence gathered during an investigation. I was not satisfied that an unregulated private investigator would grasp this ethos and the potential for abuses would still continue without statutory regulation.

Compulsory licensing of private/professional investigators is essential in order to have meaningful regulation of such an industry. Without the sanction of removing an operative’s individual licence (not an organisational licence) there would be no effective deterrent and transparent remedy to those affected by any wrongdoing. The more professional investigators should welcome this to appear more credible and ethical to their clients/potential clients. Competency criteria as provided for by the EDI Level 3 Professional Investigators Award and endorsed by the Security Industry Authority is also essential to raise or consolidate the standard of investigators currently operating and to provide a benchmark for those entering the industry. Again, I feel that investigators should welcome this to provide the credibility mentioned above.

The likely cost of regulation to Government and the industry is arguable, depending on the means being taken. As described above my training company is offering a very accessible means of preparation for the EDI examination, saving candidates costs of travel, hotel and abstraction from work by simply logging on to a nearby computer at their convenience. We currently offer our package, including the Level 3 examination at a police headquarters rented classroom under strict conditions for £399 plus VAT per person. We feel this is very cost effective to investigators, whether working alone or for a large organisation. The fee payable for the subsequent licence should cover the realistic costs of administration by the regulatory body, which could be housed with other similar regulatory bodies, e.g. the DVLA or Passport Offices where issues of identity would be more easily monitored.

January 2012

Prepared 13th March 2012