Private investigators to be regulated from 2014

Theresa May
Theresa May - Home Secretary

The Home Office has announced that private investigators are to be subject to regulation from 2014, with responsibility for issuing licences to fall under the remit of the existing security industry regulator, the Security Industry Authority (SIA).

A statement from the Home Office reveals that the Government’s plans to introduce mandatory licensing for private investigators is to come into effect “as quickly as possible”, with the new regime set to begin next year. Under this new regime, working as an unlicensed private investigator or supplying unlicensed investigators will carry a fine of up to £5,000 and up to six months in prison.

The Home Office cites the high risk presented to the public under the current arrangements, which it claims “allow anyone to work as a private investigator, regardless of their skills, experience or criminal convictions.”

All investigative activities that are carried out for the purposes of publishing legitimate journalistic material will be excluded from regulation.

Home Secretary, Theresa May, said: “It is vital we have proper regulation of private investigators to ensure rigorous standards in this sector and the respect of individuals’ rights to privacy.

“That is why I am announcing today the Government’s intention to regulate this industry, making it a criminal offence to operate as a private investigator without a licence.

“Anyone with a criminal conviction for data protection offences can expect to have their application for a licence refused. Journalists will be excluded from regulation to allow them to carry out legitimate investigations in the public interest.”

Responsibility for licensing private investigators will sit with existing security industry regulator, the Security Industry Authority, and individuals will only qualify for a licence when they have successfully:

  • completed training and achieved a government-recognised qualification, which includes understanding of relevant laws and standards, and the skills required to conduct activities ethically;
  • confirmed their identity; and
  • undergone a thorough criminality check.

As with other sectors of the private security industry, all applicants will need to meet these standards in order to receive a licence. This includes any contractors working on private investigations for companies.

This move comes against a backdrop of regulatory change for the wider security sector, which is set to make the transition to a new regime of ‘lighter touch’ regulation in the near future.

The Home Office’s Command Paper response to the Home Affairs Select Committee report on private investigators can be found here

Home Office Website