On 31 July 2013, the Home Secretary announced the Government’s intention for the Security Industry Authority (SIA) to regulate private investigation activities. On 30 June 2014, Home Office Minister Lord Taylor set out the Government’s position on the regulation of private investigations.
In answer to questions asked in the House of Lords, Lord Taylor of Holbeach said that the Government expects the regulations to license the activity of private investigations to come into force in 2015.
The Government also expects the introduction of licensing of private security businesses to come into force in 2015, followed thereafter by private investigation businesses.
The Security Industry Authority (SIA) will continue to work with the Home Office, which has responsibility for introducing the regulation of the private investigation sector.
In advance of the regulation date, the SIA will engage with the security industry to update the ‘Get Licensed’ criteria, and will continue to publicise widely further information about the proposed regulation of private investigations.
Who will need a licence?
The Private Security Industry Act 2001 defines the licensable activities of private investigations. The Home Office intends to review this definition to ensure that it remains fit for purpose.
Questions relating to whether specific activities will be licensable in future should be directed to the Home Office.
According to the Act, a given individual will need an SIA licence if they’re involved in any surveillance, inquiries or investigations that are carried out for the purposes of:
(1) Obtaining information about a particular person or about the activities or whereabouts of a particular person, or…
(2) Obtaining information about the circumstances in which, or means by which, property has been lost or damaged
Anyone involved in providing contracted private investigation services will require a licence. This includes employees, employers, managers, supervisors and directors* or partners of private investigation companies. It’s unclear if the Home Office will also wish the SIA to regulate ‘in-house’ private investigations.
*For the purposes of the Private Security Industry Act 2001, the term ‘director’ means executive and non-executive directors, shadow directors, parent company directors and corporate entities holding a directorship
Activities not requiring a licence
According to the Act, the following activities will not require a licence:
*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, and activities exclusively relating to obtaining information for 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
Penalties administered for non-compliance
The penalty for working as an unlicensed private investigator will be (upon summary conviction at a Magistrate’s Court, Sheriff Court or District Court) a maximum of six months imprisonment and/or a fine of up to £5,000.
The penalty for supplying unlicensed staff will be (upon summary conviction at a Magistrate’s Court, Sheriff Court or District Court) a maximum of six months imprisonment and/or a fine of up to £5,000.
Upon conviction on indictment at Crown Court, High Court of Justiciary or Sheriff and jury trial, the penalty will be an unlimited fine and/or up to five years imprisonment.