Until now, private investigators in England and Wales have not required any special license. That situation is about to change, however.
In May 2001 the Private Security Industry Act was passed by the British Parliament. This paved the way for a system of licensing for the private security industry. The Act separated the industry into four key segments: door minds / bouncers, wheel-clampers, manned security and private investigators.
The licensing system is implemented by the Security Industry Authority (SIA). Everything so far is running fairly smoothly, with the entire security industry in England and Wales being regulated as from 2005 on a sector by sector basis. The PI sector is last on the list, and at the time of writing (July 2008) there is still no definite date for the introduction of licensing for PIs.
At present it is too early to say exactly how the new licensing system for private investigators will operate. However, the SIA say that operators will need an SIA license "if they are engaged in investigation, inquiries or investigations for the purpose of obtaining information about a person or person (s) activities or whereabouts, or the circumstances by which property has been lost Egypt destroyed. "
The SIA says that the following activities will NOT require a license:
- activities exclusively for the purposes of market research;
- activities exclusively concerned with a credit check;
- professional activities of practicing solicitors and Barristers;
- professional activities of practicing accountants;
- professional activities of journalists and broadcasters;
- activities exclusively relating to reference to registrants which are open to the public; registers or records to which a person has a right of access; and published works; and
- activities carried out with the knowledge or consent of the subject of the investigation.
Once licensing is introduced, anyone involved in providing contracted private investigation services will need a license. This includes employees, employers, managers, supervisors and directors or partners of private investigation companies.
According to the SIA website (see below), a partial Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) has been carried out on the licensing of private investigators. This was a wide-ranging review, which looked at a range of options, and all interested parties were invited to submit their comments. The next stage is that the Home Office will publish a full Implementation Impact Assessment (IIA) that will give details of the approach to be taken. As yet there is no indication on when the IIA will be published.
The above sums up the information available about the proposed licensing of private investigators in England and Wales at the present time. For the very latest information, you may wish to check the SIA website at the-sia.org.uk. You can also phone the SIA on 08702 430 100, or write to them at Security Industry Authority, PO Box 9, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE82 6YX, UK.