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private investigator licence
in the uk

Is my private investigator licenced?

Where are we now?

The Private Security Industry Act 2001 allows for licensing of private investigators and precognition agents. However at the time of writing (August 2015) licencing has yet to be introduced for private investigators.

New Regulation Announced July 2013

Home Secretary Theresa May announced on 31 July 2013 that regulation of private investigators will be introduced as quickly as possible and the new regime will begin sometime in 2014.

See updated article: Regulation of Private Investigators to be introduced in 2014.

Or continue reading about the very long road taken to get to this stage.

Private Security Industry Act 2001

The Private Security Industry Act 2001 (as amended) allows for licensing of private investigators and precognition agents.

(Precognition agents interview witnesses for the purposes of, or in anticipation of, criminal or civil proceeding in Scotland. Proposals for the licensing of precognition agents are being considered in parallel with the development of licensing for private investigators. This is because of a similarity in the activities undertaken by both groups.)

Whether or not an individual requires a licence is determined by the role that is performed and the activity that is undertaken. These are described fully in Section 3 and Schedule 2 of the Private Security Industry Act 2001 (as amended).

The activities defined as licensable by the Act are:

  • Manned guarding, which includes:
    • Cash and Valuables in Transit
    • Close Protection
    • Door Supervision
    • Public Space Surveillance (CCTV)
    • Security Guard
  • Immobilisation, restriction and removal of vehicles
  • Key Holding

The Private Security Industry Act 2001 defines as licensable three further activities which at this stage are not currently licensed.

  • Private investigation
  • Precognition agents
  • Security consultants

Security Industry Authority

The Security Industry Authority (SIA) is the organisation responsible for regulating the private security industry.

It has two main duties:

  • The compulsory licensing of individuals undertaking certain designated activities
  • To manage the voluntary Approved Contractor Scheme

The Security Industry Authority is an independent body reporting to the Home Secretary, under the terms of the Private Security Industry Act 2001. Their mission is to regulate the private security industry effectively; to reduce criminality, raise standards and recognise quality service. The remit covers the United Kingdom.

New Regulatory Regime

October 2010 the Cabinet Office made an announcement on the future of public bodies following its review. Its intention for the Security Industry Authority was stated as:

  • ‘Security Industry Authority - No Longer an NDPB - Phased transition to new regulatory regime’.

The SIA has subsequently announced clarification on the future of a new regulatory regime. It has stated:

  • The SIA will no longer be a Non-Departmental Public Body.
  • While this means the SIA will change from its current set up, the Government has made clear its intention that the private security industry throughout the UK will continue to be regulated.
  • The Government has asked the SIA to lead the security industry in setting up a new system of regulation.
  • Ministers have said that there will not be any major changes to SIA regulation or the Approved Contractor Scheme before the London Olympics 2012.

When will private investigator licensing be introduced?

No decisions have been announced about the new regulatory regime or the timetable for implementation.

Ministers have said that there will not be any major changes to SIA regulation before the London Olympics 2012, which suggests that private investigator licensing will not be implemented until 2013 at the earliest.

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