Is It Ethical to Hire a Private Investigator in the UK in 2024?

We are always asked ‘is it legal to do this kind of thing?’ however not many people or clients ask us is it ethical to hire a private investigator? With that in mind lots of clients often have an internal battle with themselves over if they are doing the right thing by hiring us. Hence this article…

Following on the recent times that the private investigation industry has come under fire and scrutiny because of some investigators performance around the phone hacking scandal which included hacking the Royal Family.

What Does Ethical Mean?

Before I talk about the ethics around the private investigation space, I think it best to explain exactly what ethics are as they can be misread.

Being Ethical is to do something in the morally right way that most people would agree to be so. The difference most occurring is when something is legal but it is not ethical.

Simply put;

An action can be wholly legal to carry out however it is ethical when it is the correct thing to do to support people and a community and the correct way of doing it to help people and the community.

An example of legal but not ethical can be;

In the UK it is wholly legal to have a sexual relationship outside of a marriage however it is not ethical to do so without the consent of your partner due to causing extreme upset and at times medical issues through sexually transmitted infections. 

Is It Ethical to Hire a Private Investigator in the UK in 2024?

The Unethical Dangers of hiring a Private Investigator

Being Too Intrusive

As part of our pre-investigation planning, ethics are included and mostly they are measured through the level of intrusion we deem to be proportionate to carry out our objective. Being too intrusive is the fastest way to carry out unethical investigations.

External Pressures

This is often the main cause of an investigation turning unethical. Clients can often try to push investigators to work unethically to aid their budget or their timelines of objectives being met.

Other times, promising to be unethical to win work can be a key factor as some clients don’t mind the unethical approach.

In this instance, for our own integrity we must remain ethical and stick to our values. For example, we can locate a person however it may not be ethical to give the location to our client if that person wishes to not be found. Some investigation agencies in the UK will give out data regardless of consent and GDPR rules!

Lack of Honesty

After planning the investigation, it is key to stick to that plan as best as we can and be open and honest around how we achieved our goals. Over-stepping a plan and acting without honesty can be completely unethical especially when our work isn’t monitored by our client.

Conflicts of Interest

Acting for one party whilst benefiting another party is completely unethical. It doesn’t happen very often (never to me at least) however if a business instructed an investigator to snoop on a competing business but the investigator had interests there, it would be unethical for the investigator to carry out the work.

Before you hire a private detective ALWAYS ask about conflicts of interest!

Historic Unethical Behaviours

It’s always been done this way!

This isn’t limiting to the investigator sector at all! The old adage that a goal has always been achieved this way does not mean it is now ethical in 2024 whereas it may have been in 1994. Any investigation agency who thinks in this way WILL not be ethical and not only that, their use of technology and ways of getting the job done will way below the standard expected today. 

Set Boundaries to Always Be Ethical

One of the best ways I’ve found to always be ethical whilst conducting private investigations is to have clear objectives set with boundaries around them. This is a perfect way to make sure the investigation will be both done legally and ethically and sets the goals to be achieved and HOW they are going to be achieved.

For example, proving infidelity can be tricky if it is only ever done in a private space so it is crucial that the level of intrusion is always managed correctly and not pushed over an unethical line.

Why Do Ethics Matter in a Private Investigation?

If it is legal to do, why does it matter if it’s ethical? It matters because to us, it is more important than being legal. We mainly focus on surveillance work where being covert and intrusive are how we achieve are aims so being ethical is a must.  Also, the measure from our peers and in general, society as a whole whether something being right or wrong is the best test as to that thing being the correct way.

It shows true integrity of a person or business and in my opinion is a good sign that person or business will stand the test of time.

To Finish

How ethical an investigation company is, is a great test of how good they will be as they will do the job legally and ethically meaning it will be viewed in court in a good light if needed. Where possible always use an ethical private investigator!

As always thanks for reading, Dan 

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