The Security Industry Authority (SIA) is proceeding with the option of licensing individual private investigation and precognition agents, with competency criteria, which will include specified training, according to the Association of British Investigators (ABI). It was the option favoured by a sizeable majority of those giving their views during consultation.
Consultation in 2007 showed strong agreement that there is a need to introduce licensing of private investigations and precognition agents. An interim Impact Assessment was published on the SIA website in September 2008.
The ABI said: “We acknowledge that it is taking longer than anticipated to introduce licensing for private investigations and precognition agents. However, Ministers have now agreed that the licensing of private investigators should be one of the SIA’s main priorities.”
The SIA set up an online questionnaire in January for those working in the private investigations industry to share their views. The idea was to gather information about the sector, for example the type of activities individuals/companies engage in, their awareness of the SIA and their thoughts on regulation.
According to a statement: “The SIA will use this feedback as a starting point to obtain information about the sector before licensing is introduced in order to identify changes to the industry as a result of regulation.”
The potential enforcement date for regulation is 2011/12, according to the ABI. That is because, although recommendation to introduce licensing was accepted by the Minister, it is important to undertake further steps to ensure that the regulation would meet essential criteria before it was introduced. Those steps include discussions with all government departments, other regulators and stakeholder representatives, to ensure that no-one would be ‘doubly regulated’ by competency-based licensing.
“We also have to ensure that individuals and companies are fully aware of the proposals, that the processes and systems are in place and that everyone has enough time to prepare and be ready for regulation,” said the ABI statement.
According to the Private Security Industry Act 2001 an SIA licence is needed by those who are involved in any surveillance, inquiries or investigations that are carried out for the purposes of obtaining information about a particular person or about the activities or whereabouts of a particular person, or those involved in obtaining information about the circumstances in which, or means by which, property has been lost or damaged.
Activities that will not require a licence are:
• Activities exclusively for the purposes of market research
• Activities exclusively concerned with a credit check
• Professional activities of practising solicitors and barristers
• Professional activities of practising accountants
• Professional activities of journalists and broadcasters
• Activities exclusively relating to reference to registers which are open to the public; registers or records to which a person has a right of access; and published works
• Activities carried out with the knowledge or consent of the subject of the investigation.
Anyone involved in providing contracted private investigation services will require a licence. That includes employees, employers, managers, supervisors and directors or partners of private investigation companies.