Question – Why would I need a Private Investigator?
Answer – To help you investigate a matter when the Police or other Law Enforcement Agencies / Public Body can’t or “Won’t” Help you!
This may be as simple as tracing a debtor, a missing person or a witness. It could be to verify a prospective employee’s CV or it could be to find out if someone is worth suing if you are thinking of issuing legal proceedings.
Sometimes you may be faced with more serious matters such as crime. You may be the victim of theft or damage and it may be that you have been told by the police – “sorry, we can’t do anything unless you have got any firm evidence for us to act on”.
This is a far cry from the days when I was a police officer, when we were expected to investigate crime, catch the offenders, process the case through the courts and bring the offenders to justice. Well things have certainly changed for the worst. We are always hearing about the police being overworked, understaffed and weighed down by bureaucracy. This may well be the case but it is of no help or reassurance to you if you have a problem. If you are not satisfied to let sleeping dogs lie, then you could seek the help and advice of a Private Investigator.
FINDING THE RIGHT INVESTIGATOR
10 Questions you must ask yourself before Instructing a Private Investigator!
1. Telephone Number:
Is the telephone number that the Private Investigator is advertising a genuine geographical telephone number or is it an 0845, 0800 or mobile telephone number. The likelihood is that if the number is NOT a geographical telephone number, they are trying to hide something.
The obvious thing to hide behind an 0845, 0800 or mobile number is the fact that Investigator is NOT local. Many Private Investigators use these types of numbers to try and give the impression that they have offices in different towns and cities throughout the UK. In reality you may think you are talking to an investigator in Nottingham when you are actually talking to someone in London.
“Let’s face it Trotters Independent Trading Co. claimed to be in New York, Paris and Peckham”!
Would you want someone like them carrying out a sensitive investigation for you?
Beware of the P O Box address!
I have heard many excuses for Investigators hiding behind P O Boxes in the past, but I feel that is exactly what they are – EXCUSES!
The main excuse used by Investigators who use a P O Box address is that they work from home, and they do not want people to know where they live, they do not want clients visiting them at home. This may well be the case but there are many for whom the reality is they are possibly hiding behind the P O Box address to give the impression that they are something which they are NOT i.e. A Professional Investigator.
If you have a sensitive investigation which demands professionalism, integrity, reliability, discretion AND accountability do you really want to instruct someone who may be working in his back kitchen on a part time basis.
If you are uncomfortable hiring someone who will only give you a P O Box address, then look elsewhere. If you ring the Royal Mail and ask them for the real address behind a P O Box – They have to tell you!
Beware the Private Investigator who makes more of a fuss about telling you what equipment they have rather than showing that they understand what you situation is and can offer you a realistic and cost effective solution.
All investigators worth instructing will have the necessary equipment to be able to trade in this very competitive industry.
In certain circumstance you should ask to see any specialist equipment and get a demonstration of what it can do and how it may help you.
4. Listen – Understand – Offer Cost Efficient Solution
When you initially talk to a Private Investigator about a potential investigation, ARE THEY LISTENING ? or are they only interested in telling you what they can do. Are they capable of gathering up all of the existing intelligence and evidence? Can they understand what is put before them? Can they plan a suitable, legal and proportionate investigation to offer you a Cost Effective Solution ? or are they only INTERESTED IN YOUR MONEY!
Can you trust that the Investigator will carry out a legal investigation?
Experience as a general concept comprises knowledge of or skill in or observation of some thing or some event gained through involvement in or exposure to that thing or event. The concept of experience generally refers to know-how or procedural knowledge, rather than propositional knowledge: on-the-job training rather than book-learning.
Beware the Investigator whos main claim is “We only employ Ex-Police Officers and Ex-Military”
This in no way means that a person can carry out a professional investigation in a commercial market place !
Ex-Police Officer and Ex-Military personnel do sometimes make excellent Private Investigators but their experience has been gained in an entirely different environment.
6. Policies Systems and Controls
Although the Private Investigators operate in an un-regulated market place, a good investigator will have Policies, Systems and Controls in place to safeguard themselves their clients and each investigation. The last thing anyone to do is spend money on an investigation only to find that the work the investigators has done is illegal or inadmissible. Do not be afraid to ask an investigators about their policies.
Many Private Investigators now rely heavily on the use of vehicle trackers and use this as a strong selling point especially in investigations where surveillance is needed. This is often because the investigator is not experienced in conventional surveillance or they think that the client will be impressed by the fact they have covert vehicle trackers. Many of the devices used by Private Investigators are cheap and unreliable and can often be bought on the internet from as little as £50 to £100 pounds. If the investigator tells you that you can log onto the website and see where the vehicle has been BEWARE !If you can log onto a website, then WHO and HOW MANY other people can ? Trackers are useful when used properly. Some companies use the fact that they will supply a tracker free of charge on ALL surveillance’s. You have to ask why a professional investigator would do this. If a tracker was really needed on a surveillance operation then it would be charged out. These type of companies are trying to “Sell a Lost Leader” to get your business. This probably indicates that they do not understand your needs and that they cannot therefore offer you a solution, If you are not happy about what you are being offered – ASK!
8. How much will it cost
This is very simple. An investigator will usually charge between £40 – £50 per man hour. This may be more in and around the London and South East. Investigators will usually charge for mileage and this may vary from 40 pence to 65 pence per mile. There may be other charges and you may be able to negotiate a day rate or a fixed price for the job. Do not necessarily go with the cheapest quote, go with the investigator you feel comfortable with. This will be the one who listens to your situation and is able to understand it and offer you a cost effective solution!
If you are a Private Fee Paying client, you will most likely be asked for payment on account for all or some of the expected fee. This is usual practice and you should be able to make payment using BACS, Credit / Debit Card, Cash or Cheque. Whatever method of payment you choose, you should ask for a receipt and an Invoice (VAT if applicable).
9. What do I get for my money
You should feel relaxed about asking a Private Investigator what you will get for your money. Ask if there are any extra costs such as expenses, reports, affidavits etc. A Professional Investigator will tell you if there may be extra charges. What you do not want is an un-expected bill at the end of the job. You may well be able to negotiate an ALL INCLUSIVE rate. BEWARE of investigators who offer a “NO RESULT NO CHARGE”. Why would anyone do this. If someone offers you this, it will probably be just to get the job. If the investigation proves testing you will more than likely be offered a NEGATIVE result. This may not cost you anything but what you really wanted is a RESULT. If you ask yourself the question “What have I got to lose?” The answer could be – A LOT ! An inexperienced or incompetent investigator could cause you even more problems than you had in the first place by “compromising” your position and putting you in an even worse position.
10. Claims and Membership
Ask an Investigator to prove their memberships and ask them what they mean. If an Investigator claims to have received certain medals and awards – check out their claims. If they are false or exaggerated, then you do not really want to instruct them. Most awards and memberships can be checked on the internet.
The best piece of advice is:
ONLY INSTRUCT AN ASSOCIATION OF BRITISH INVESTIGATORS (ABI) MEMBER. The ABI is the only Investigators Association endorsed by the legal profession. The ABI regulate its membership in an Industry which is un-regulated.
Remember that it is the person who is an ABI member not the company. There is a very strict selection criteria to be admitted to the ABI and it may be that some Partners or Directors are unable to join because they do not meet the requirements.
ABI Members must have:
1. Clear Criminal Record Certificate at Basic Disclosure Level
2. Professional Indemnity Insurance.
3. Public Liability Insurance.
4. Be of good character.
5. Operate within the framework of a code of ethics.
To find out more about the Association of British Investigators, the membership criteria or the code of conduct and disciplinary procedure, then visit their website at: http://www.theabi.org.uk