24/04/2014 07:31 BST | Updated 23/06/2014 06:59 BST

The Self Regulation of the UK Private Investigation Industry

With a keen interest in the overall well-being and activities of my chosen profession as a private investigator, I take great interest and find relief in the annual investigator agency profiles that we commission every year at Insight Investigations. Particularly with the upcoming law changes meaning that Private Investigators will be recognised as a licensed profession.


Insight commission this survey every year, and sometimes twice a year, and have done so for the past 17 years. With the high level of competition in the private investigation industry we like to keep up to date with what our competitors are up to as well as keeping a wide knowledge of the profession as a whole.

Out of the 50 UK investigation agencies canvased, as a "secret shopper" only 1 offered to provide what would be classed as services that were in breach of the UK data Protection Act, Section 55.

To my relief, the majority of the companies emphasised how it was illegal to obtain certain information, which is particularly good to know considering the "negative aura" that has been shrouding the Private Investigation industry for several years now.

10 years ago, out of the private investigator agencies that advertise to the general public and companies, 40% would offer to obtain information that would today be deemed "illegal", including obtaining ex-directory phone numbers, phone records or even bank records.

5 years ago when conducting the same survey the results showed that approximately 20% of the Private Investigation agencies would still illegally obtain this information.

This shows what a success the UK's investigation industries "self-regulation" has been, promoting the fact that in the profession we are professional conscientious law abiding hard working individuals.

No "official body" or Association or even Government Agency has achieved this, it has simply been a cumulative effort from within the industry, by the industry, and through this process some of the "bad wood" has been eliminated.

Of course there is much more of an incentive to work within the law now, with the upcoming changes to the industry with the introduction of compulsory licensing; as any company or individual who would be prosecuted under Section 55 of the Data Protection Act would be unlikely to be granted a private investigation license in the UK when the new law comes into force.

Tony Smith is a director at Insight Investigations