What can a Private Investigator do legally in the UK?
Whether a loved one has gone missing or you suspect an employee of faking sickness, there are many reasons why a person would want to hire a private investigator (PI). But with new privacy laws and a strict legal system, how can you be sure everything they do is above board and could hold up in a court of law? Read on to learn more about the UK regulations, what methods PIs can legally use and why you would want to hire a PI in the first place.
What does the law say in the UK?
In the UK, many laws and regulations rightly protect personal security and privacy, including the 2018 General Data Protection Regulation, the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 and the older Regulation in Investigatory Powers Act 2000. These laws protect your safety and prevent people from infringing on your human rights. With plenty of speculation surrounding the private security industry, however, it's critical that when choosing a PI, you opt for a company that places the law above all else.
How can you ensure that you're getting the best of the best? Being a member of security bodies like the ICO - the UK's independent authority - means PIs operate discreetly, with your strictest confidentially. This body is set up to uphold individuals' information rights and data privacy. Although PIs don't require experience in the police or military, it does offer more peace of mind for clients with this background.
You can rest assured that investigators with a professional background will work hard to deliver expert results 100 per cent above board. Unlike the police, however, PIs don't hold the same legal rights over members of the public. For example, PIs can't make arrests or trespass on private property. It is also illegal for anyone to impersonate a member of the police force to obtain any information for their private investigation.
By following this strict set of regulations and procedures alongside personal discretion, PIs can ensure all their work is completed to the highest standard and is admissible in a court of law.
So, precisely what investigative methods can PIs utilise? The first rule of any PI investigation is that everyone remains safe and that they do not intentionally cause any damage or injury. PIs will then use whatever legal means necessary to acquire the relevant information. Here's a rundown of what exactly PIs can and can't legally use in their investigations:
OFFICIAL RECORDS: PIs have finely tuned skills to conduct research and background checks on a person. To do so, they can legally access all public records, including criminal and court documents. However, PIs can't legally obtain private documents such as phone, financial, medical or court-sealed records. They are also not allowed to open mail or order a credit report without the consent of the individual in question.
COMPUTERS & PHONES: PIs are legally not allowed to hack or wiretap a laptop/computer, phone or tablet. They only have access to these documents if they have the owner's express permission.
SURVEILLANCE: There is a wealth of information available without breaking the law. Private investigators can legally follow people in public spaces and use GPS tracking to monitor locations. They can also use open-source records, perform background checks and draw upon the vast amount of information on social media and other sites. They can also take a photo and video evidence as long as they aren't trespassing on private property to do so.
INTERVIEWS: Word of mouth is another excellent way to gather relevant information from a friend, co-worker or relative. This can be used to help find a missing person or monitor someone's behaviour.
What can PIs legally investigate?
Investigative methods vary from company to company. But most organisations will use various techniques to obtain specific information, whether for a private individual or corporate purposes. Here are a few possible examples of what precisely a PI can investigate:
MISSING PEOPLE: PI companies can legally search for missing people in the UK using surveillance methods. This could be a lost loved one, someone avoiding paying their debts or even a cowboy contractor who has left you in the lurch.
MATRIMONIAL SURVEILLANCE: Do you suspect your spouse is cheating? Do you need confirmation they are having an affair? PIs are legally allowed to follow people and report their activities to individuals.
ASSETS & PROPERTY: Whether you need to uncover assets for a divorce hearing or a business liquidation, PIs can help. This service is relevant for people or businesses who need professional help to conduct searches through public records.
CORPORATE INVESTIGATIONS: Do you have an employee constantly feigning sickness? Or are you worried about workplace theft? PIs in the UK can offer a range of corporate investigation services. They can use the appropriate legal surveillance methods to provide valid evidence to the employer.
INSURANCE FRAUD: Insurance fraud is on the rise, with a whopping £90m fraud claims detected by insurance group Aviva in 2017. This is where PIs step in, helping corporate firms and individuals build up a case. They do this by providing reports and footage with dates and time stamps. A professional PI can help you gain high-quality evidence from false workplace injuries to crash-for-cash incidents.
WE ARE HERE TO HELP: Hunter Surveillance Services provides expert private investigation services for individuals and corporate clients across the UK. Based in Lancashire, our discreet, highly skilled operatives work quickly to the letter of the law to help you uncover the truth and get the evidence you deserve. To find out more and discuss your options, get in touch today.