Last month the Home Office revealed that Private Investigators will now have to obtain an SIA licence in order to work legally within the UK.
The Home Office said it wanted to “ensure rigorous standards” and universal licensing practices in an industry where “rogue investigators” had been infringing privacy. The Security Industry Authority is best placed to oversee this.
Amazingly, private investigators currently operate without any kind of license. With no regulation anyone can take on the role, regardless of their skills, experience or criminal history.
The recent Levison enquiry uncovered that 22 law firms exist on a 102-strong list of companies to have used private investigators, alongside several insurance companies, financial services groups and more. With such widespread usage, the proper SIA licensing of private investigators could not come sooner.
From autumn 2014, the SIA will issue licences to private investigators only where an applicant has completed the required SIA endorsed training and has achieved a Government-recognised qualification. Those that break the new rules and operate without an SIA licence could face serious problems. The maximum penalty for working as an unlicensed private investigator or supplying unlicensed investigators will be a fine of up to £5,000 and up to six months in prison.
Overview of the SIA/Home Office Private Investigators Licence
So what will happen over the next year in preparation for the licensing of Private Investigators?
The SIA has a series of objectives covering each profession of the Private Security Industry. These objectives will also apply to the licensed Private Investigator sector. Mission statements such as: “Providing services and standards to their customers”, “Delivering regulatory activities effectively and efficiently”, “Delivering a development programme that continues effective regulation of the private security industry” and “To be recognised internally and externally as a model of good practice”, will all have to be adhered to by anyone working as a Private Investigator.
Applicants will be checked against a national register of approved qualifications with data submitted by the relevant awarding bodies. In short you will need to have passed an accredited investigators course via an accredited awarding body before you can apply for an SIA licence. (The exact content of the SIA Training for private investigators has yet to be confirmed.)
To quote directly from the SIA, the organization has explained that in preparing the new Licence; “The specification does not represent all the training that would be required to produce a job-ready investigator, but it does cover the knowledge necessary to prevent harm to the public”
This does come across as rather non-committal, as it basically means the SIA will be responsible for ensuring a person completing the relevant training and applying for an SIA licence is free from criminal records, they who they say they are, have a right to work in the UK and be mentally fit to do so. (Actual on the job competency seemingly a lesser priority.)
Like all professions within the security sector, gaining your SIA licence marks just the beginning. Only with on the job experience, continual training and a good deal of luck will you be able to enjoy a successful career as a Private Investigator.