Are Private Investigators Legal?
Posted on 21st March 2021
Are private investigators legal?
A private investigator is a privately hired contractor who actively investigates a case to help find evidence. Private investigators are not part of any legal sector or public service. The evidence they gather can be taken forward to a court or used for internal investigations. The investigator themselves cannot take legal action for you, or do anything beyond evidence gathering.
As a result, most professional investigators are hired by companies to investigate internal issues, with the evidence being passed on to the HR team. These issues could be employee misconduct, theft, fraud, or general dishonest behaviour. Private investigators help businesses to find out the truth by offering an impartial and unbiased third-party service. This offers the businesses a chance to properly investigate issues that they may not have the time to do themselves.
A variety of techniques are used by private investigators to establish what truly happened in a situation. Through entirely legal methods, they will build evidence that can be used for a case. They can carry out background and history checks via public and business records, conduct surveillance, investigate storage devices such as hard drives, and take statements from relevant parties. Data research, trace and asset reports, surveillance, computer forensics retrieval, covert vehicle tracking - all of these methods are legal. Many private investigators will use a mixture of these methods to find the required evidence.
Interviewing people is an effective and entirely legal method of evidence gathering. If it is being recorded, the investigator will make the interviewee aware of the recording device. The aim is not to trick the person or lead them with any questions asked. Background checks are also a common procedure. Making sure that someone is who they say they are is very important. Through the use of public records, you can legally obtain accurate background checks. Surveillance is also entirely legal, as long as private property is not entered, as this is classed as breaking and entering. The maximum sentence in the magistrates' courts for breaking and entering is a £5000 fine and/or 26 weeks in prison. The maximum sentence in the Crown Court is 14 years in prison, however the sentencing guideline range is from a community order up to 6 years in prison, dependent on the situation.
A private investigation always has to be careful about how it obtains evidence. They should never enter the property of carry out judgments on their own accord. They should never hack a personal device, or carry out any action that is against the law. When handling personal data, they must always follow the data protection act. If an investigator lacks experience, they could gather evidence incorrectly and damage the case. As a result, it is important when hiring a private investigator to do significant research. Ensure they have experience, a good track record, and case studies that prove their skills and knowledge. They should be able to provide evidence and information about their experience, with references from names solicitors and barristers.
To answer the question, are private investigators legal - yes, entirely so. As long as they work within the confines of the law when conducting their investigations.
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