Private Investigators - Home Affairs Committee Contents


1.  The phone-hacking scandal cast a new light on the sometimes murky world of private investigators. Individuals such as Glenn Mulcaire and Steve Whittamore might conform to a certain stereotype of the private investigator, but investigation in its broader sense is a multi-million pound industry which performs many socially-valuable functions. Private investigators are employed by law-firms, major corporations, individuals, local authorities and even government departments to carry out a wide range of work such as corporate due diligence, accident investigation, insurance claims inquiries and tracing debtors. The committee was told that, broadly speaking, their work can be classified into four types: business intelligence; litigation support; problem-solving; and domestic and personal investigations.[1]

2.  However, the rogue element of the industry not only causes significant harm in its own right, it drags down the reputation of the industry as a whole, damaging by association the reputations of many decent, honest, law-abiding and highly-skilled investigators.

3.  Following our inquiry on phone-hacking last year, the Prime Minister announced a two-part examination of the role of the press and police in the phone-hacking scandal.[2] Phone-hacking brought to light the illegal activities of private investigators on behalf of the tabloid media. However, Lord Justice Leveson's work is focused only on a small portion of the work of private investigators.

4.  Our intention is not to replicate the work of the Leveson Inquiry, but to explore how the work of private investigators impacts more widely on the world of law-enforcement, on the justice system and on the lives of ordinary people, not just those with a high media profile. In Part 1, we set out the role of the private investigator; in Part 2, we turn to the risks of an unregulated sector; and in Part 3, we recommend a number of remedies, including statutory regulation.

1   Some private investigators contrasted their work in legitimate data gathering with "information brokers", who they claimed were simply traders in information-both legitimate and illicit-without the investigative function. Back

2   Home Affairs Committee, Unauthorised tapping into or hacking of mobile communications, Thirteenth Report of Session 2010-12, 20 July 2011, HC 907 Back

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© Parliamentary copyright 2012
Prepared 6 July 2012