Do We Need A Chartered Institute of Investigators?

The ABI, the longest established organisation representing professional Private Investigators in the UK, has proposed that in order to practice as a professional investigator candidates must adhere to certain strict and far-reaching conditions.

A statement published on the Association of British Investigator’s (ABI) website details proposals for the industry to move towards Chartered Institute status by the end of 2013, with regulatory controls set to include ongoing training and assessment, strict vetting, mandatory insurance and adherence to a code of ethics.

With licensing for PIs looming the ABI appears to be posturing and positioning itself to be: ”In the vanguard of the sector’s efforts towards the formation of the Chartered Institute of Investigators, through the grant of a Royal Charter”.

The burning question is: does the PI industry really need that level of regulation or are we in danger of implementing ‘operation over-kill’?  The result of which could deal a devastating blow to an industry that the ABI says it wants to protect.

There is growing concern from many quarters in the industry that in advocating the ‘Chartered Institute’ route the ABI may well be following a self-serving agenda – an attempt to safeguard the continued existence and ‘future-proofing’ of an established industry association.

The fact is that many Professional Investigation Association members admit that their reason for joining a professional association is based solely on their pursuit of increased credibility. Joining an industry association allows the member to display the association logo on their marketing and advertising media which in turn gives potential clients a perception of a member’s legitimacy and credibility.

A valid question is: could holding a PI license achieve this without any input or interference from any industry association?

With that in mind, the question of licensing may well have thrown the proverbial ‘spanner in the works’ for the future of the industry associations.

There is no denying that competency assessment, CRB checking, industry qualification and licensing for PIs is desirable. These are criteria which are already applied in respect of SIA licenses issued to Close Protection Operatives, Security Officers and Door Supervisors, however, mandatory Professional Indemnity insurance, along with investigating financial probity is not currently criteria adopted within these license conditions.

Insisting on a PI holding professional indemnity insurance and disallowing a license on the basis that a person has been bankrupt or has had CCJs in the past (both of which can be intrinsically embedded in the risks of operating a business) could well be seen by many as a step too far – preventing hard-working legitimate freelance PIs and sole trader agencies from operating and earning a living.