Regulation of private investigators by the Security Industry Authority will wait until the outcome of the Leveson Inquiry into phone hacking, according to written evidence submitted by the Home Office and the Security Industry Authority yesterday.
Home Office ministers had been considering the introduction of compulsory regulation of private investigators under the Private Scurity Industry Act 2001.
However, the current definition of private investigations in the Act specifically excludes activities carried out for journalistic purposes.
“Given the wider implications and the immediate revelevance of this issue to those being considered by the Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practice and ethics of the press, Home Office Ministers have decided that any final decision on whether to regulate private investigations should await the outcome and findings of that Inquiry,” the Home Office said.
In Northern Ireland, the issue is being considered as part of a wider consultation on regulation of the security industry.
An Impact Assessment published in September 2008 recommended that regulation should take the form of compulsory licensing of private investigation activity based on a fit and proper test and including competency criteria – the option that generated the largest consensus from the consultation.
In evidence to the Home Office, G4S stated that it believes the private investigators market is in an “iceberg stage” in which a small percentage of companies are operating to high standards while a large number of individuals are not. They compared the situation to that of the manned security services market prior to the introduction of security industry regulation.
G4S also blamed customers who are prepared to pay large sums of money for information that is not obtainable through legitimate means. “This is created widespread bad practice amongst those Pis, whether corporate or individual, for whom basic business ethics are anathema,” G4S said. “The issues raised by this behaviour have become clear over the last few months but does not need to be revisited in this response.”