One of the things that was highlighted recently in the Leveson Inquiry is that the private investigators and enquiry agents used by the media often sub-contracted work to other agents. The result of which was that it was difficult to pinpoint who had exactly done what. Unfortunately there were (and still are) too many enquiry agents who either do not understand the laws regarding use of personal data and privacy, or blatently choose to ignore it.
There are no barriers to entry in the investigation sector like the closely aligned security sector, so any Tom, Dick or Harry can decide to become a private investigator or enquiry agent, with no training, qualifications or experience.
With media ethics currently been scrutinised and dubious practices being exposed, it could be argued that ethics and a desire to uphold legal principals would not have made the criteria when searching for their enquiry agents. But what of the legal sector? Surely you would expect that solicitors and legal workers would follow a stringent vetting procedure to ensure that those that would undertake assignments for them were of sound background and would not act in a way that might reflect badly on the instructing solicitor? Alas I fear not.
Many solicitors have forged long-standing relationships with enquiry agents and process servers. Whilst the majority of these will act with integrity and honesty, a minority (or greater if you believe the current hype) may undertake services which fall foul of the law. More significantly though, those that look for an enquiry agent or process server for a one off job or for infrequent instructions may not make proper checks before instructing. In modern times, a solicitors reputation and standing in the community are a prized asset and with media vultures circling around the private investigation industry at present, there is a real risk of becoming collatoral damage should an investigator you instruct be exposed for shoddy or illegal practices.
The greatest risk I see however, is when the enquiry agent you instruct then sub-contracts to another enquiry agent or process server. Even if you’ve done your homework on the person you instructed, it’s pointless if they pass it to someone else who would fail the same scrutiny. Unfortunately, work is often offered on public internet groups where other agents bid on the work. I have picked up the odd assignment myself using them, more so when I first started out. Surprisingly, no-one ever asked me anthing other than my fee and turnaround time. With no checks in place, the work you think is being handled by one agent could actually end up being undertaken by someone completely different.
So, with all this in mind, what should be done? Well, until such time as regulation comes into the investigation sector (assuming it ever does), the moral of the story really is that you should be doubly sure of the person, or people, doing your investigation work. The embarrassment and potential repercussions by failing to make proper checks are simply too great a risk.
For a detailed guide on using process servers and enquiry agents, go to my website at Alpha Legal Solutions. Alternatively, if you want to discuss this or any other investigative matter, call us on 08442 510580 now.
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