What can a PI legally do in the UK?

One of the questions I get asked a lot is ‘is it even legal to hire a Private Investigator in the UK?’ The answer is, of course, yes! A good PI will not only know how to work with UK law, but how to use it to their advantage. Below is an overview of the kinds of techniques a Private Investigator can legally employ in the UK. If you hire an individual who tries to work outside of these parameters, I suggest you look elsewhere!

Covert Surveillance

Those who find themselves under surveillance may try to argue an invasion of privacy tantamount to stalking. If it is done correctly, however, then surveillance is a non-invasive technique, resulting in zero harassment of the subject. Whether conducting static surveillance outside of a property, or physically following someone, a PI will never trespass on private property or make contact with the target. Those kinds of actions could not only blow our cover, rendering the investigation pointless, they might also distress the subject, which is not our intention and would constitute harassment.

GPS Tracking

Similar to surveillance, if done improperly then tracking a vehicle’s GPS could be thrown out as an invasion of privacy. A private investigator can get around this, however, if they have permission from the vehicle owner to do so. If you share a car with your partner, or your business owns a company car used by one of your employees, a PI can attach a GPS tracking device to it with your permission. We can then retrieve the device, or download the data remotely, to monitor their journeys and time spent at specific locations. This can give us some valuable information but, be warned! GPS is not always as reliable as you might think.

Background Checks

Background checks (sometimes known in business settings as ‘due diligence’ checks) are a form of investigation into who an individual claims to be or to have achieved. Often requested by employers before hiring a new member of staff, or by individuals who want to know more about a potential romantic partner, background checks can include looking into criminal records, verifying skills and qualifications, and even in-depth browsing of their social media accounts. All information has to be publicly available; a PI cannot, for example, hack into someone’s computer or intercept their post to find more information. A PI’s job is to know how to interpret these public records and know exactly where to search, saving you
time and resulting in a much more thorough report than might be achieved without their services.

Search for a Missing Person

Whether looking for a lost loved one, or tracking down someone who is evading legal action, searching for a missing person is well within a PI’s legal remit. To do so, much like conducting background checks, we can only use information from publicly available or open- source records. Again, this can and often does extend to social media and internet searches. It can also include interviewing willing parties and surveillance tactics, but again while observing the laws and limitations I have laid out above.

One of my main goals as an investigator is to provide you with useful, conclusive evidence; anything obtained illegally would go against that! I make sure I keep up with changes to the law and ensure everything I do is well and truly ‘above board’, so you can trust in my results.