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how many private investigators
are there in the UK

How many private investigators are there in the UK?


We get out our calculator and estimate how many private investigators there are in the UK.

It is not as many as you might have heard.

The figure of 10,000 Private Investigators in the UK has been in use for nearly 15 years, and maybe for longer. It first appeared in the early days of the Investigators’ Sector Group. The ISG was formed by the investigator associations and other interested parties in response to the Private Security Industry Act 2001 and the expected licensing of investigators.

This figure was not based on rigorous research, and was not subject to peer review. It was a ‘convenient’ number for the discussions of the ISG with the Home Office and the Security Industry Authority.

Raising the profile

How do you raise the profile of an industry sector to bring it to the attention of Government?

  • You look for adverse public opinion or press coverage, such as with vehicle immobilisers.
  • You look for a significant number of individuals involved in the industry, such as with man guarding.

Private investigators, generally do not have the bad press; and are not seen as a threat to society. So you have to be able to show a significant number of investigators. Without either you will not get on the government radar.

The figure of 10,000 private investigators made it appear a significant sector; and there was no reliable data to judge whether it was accurate or not. It was a ‘convenient’ number.

But how many are there?

The only figure we do know for certain is that recently released by the Information Commissioner’s Office in a press statement dated 5 August 2010. It states:

“Currently only 1,626 private investigators appear on the public (DPA) register ... ’

What the ICO did not make clear is that this was 1,626 legal entities, and not necessarily 1,626 individuals.

Sole traders have to notify individually, but limited companies have only to notify once for all employees.

What is clear is it is a lot less than 10,000

Adding it up

If all the notifications are for companies, and each company employed 6 staff, then that could be 10,000 private investigators.

However, the majority of private investigator businesses do not directly employ other staff.

When you consider the structure of the industry, and assuming most are honest people who will notify, then the figure of 10,000 private investigators looks less and less credible.

So how many are there?

Based on the ICO number, and our knowledge of the sector our ‘guess’ is somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000.

But, no one knows for sure.

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