Private Investigator, Private Detective, Professional Investigator.
Private Investigator is the term most used in the UK along with the title of Private Detective. Other terms such as Professional Investigator is preferred by some in an attempt to distance themselves from the cowboy element in the business. Enquiry Agent is yet another term. The title of Licenced Private Investigator may come in to being in the coming years and that will certainly help to raise the standards.
The theory being that it would be illegal to advertise or trade as a Private Investigator unless one was qualified and just as important is that it would be illegal to employ the services of a Private Detective who was not qualified.
The Government has indicated that to become a licenced Private Investigator one needs to hold the EDI Level 3 qualification or equivalent. They so far have not included, what many in the profession feel should be, is a CRB check (now called the Disclosure and Barring Service) and a Financial Check to make sure they are solvent, not a disqualified Company Director or someone with County Court Judgements (CCJ’s) against them.
Add the requirement of Professional and Public Liability Insurance and Data Protection registration and you go a long way to making the chosen title one with recognised standards and status.
In 2001, the government passed the licensing of private investigators and private investigation firms in UK and Wales over to SIA (Security Industry Authority act), who acted as the regulatory body from then on. However, due to the cutbacks of this SIA, licensing of private investigators in the UK was halted indefinitely. As of the moment there are no governmental backed authorities in the UK to license private investigators.
The SIA have announced that Private Investigators in the UK are to become licenced for the first time from May 2015. However, at this time this is only the scheduled date for the issue to be discussed in parliament. With the General Election coming up I doubt whether it will happen this year or next.
Depending on which statistics you read there could be 3,000 or 10,000 people in the UK calling themselves Private Detectives, so be cautious.
Generally speaking if you live or have the problem in Somerset or Bristol or Exeter then one is likely to search for a Private Investigator in that area believing that it is essential to the cost and practicalities of the operation and that is usually the case.
Tracing of people is probably an exception as the initial search is one of computer data which can be done from anywhere but then if you wish for the address to be physically checked or the persons presence confirmed you are back to using a local agent.
Whether one searches for a service in the geographical area of Somerset or a local search in the main cities of Bristol, Bath, Taunton or Wells you will no doubt come across a number of agents advertising their wares. Read the ads carefully and check that there is a local address and phone number (if there is a 0800 on offer without the local address and phone line just be aware you could be connecting to a person 200 miles away).Check out their website.
A Professional Investigator should give you unbiased telephone advice and most probably the initial consultation free of charge.
As to fees, they will very much depend on the extent of the operation but should be agreed in writing (email is king) before giving instructions. Do not be offended if the agent asks for the total in advance they do not wish to do a week’s surveillance and end up with a bad debt. The Private Investigator should carry both Professional and Public Liability Insurance, ask, they are acting for you.
Remember that you are paying for the Investigator’s time and expertise and not a guaranteed result.