Private investigator v Investigative Journalist

They both rummage about in the shadows, breaching privacy (Don’t they – not anymore!)……..

The foundation of everything that is positive and worthwhile in society is predicated on a small number of fundamental expectations and freedoms – principally that individuals and organisations are capable of reporting factually, truthfully and without fear.

If a private investigator accesses information outside the public domain and, for example, exposes a fraudster, then their actions can be justified. In a similar fashion, if an investigative journalist exposes a false expenses claim belonging to an M.P. then who can say that they acted in an incorrect manner in exposing the aforementioned accounting oversight?

The fear and perception, that private investigators are sneaking around accessing your personal information and making that information available to their clients on a frivolous level is a misconception that is much exaggerated and acerbated by hysterical over reporting.

Admittedly, reporters and private investigators, have, on occasion, become over zealous, or have used poor judgement, when choosing their investigatory method. Trying to make a reasoned argument to dig a little bit deeper and fish around a bit more…. The, “Means justify the end”, argument is not always plausible and both Investigators and reporters have, at times, merged into their media created photo fits –portrayed as performers in, “Dark alleyways” – hacking into voice mails, accessing phone records, not digging into bins anymore, but, into the personal information garbage pile now found in the bins of the cyber highway….

The more learned investigators and reporters will have learnt from their peers, from their studies or from the occasional brush with authority that there is a, “Line that should not be crossed” and that the privacy of the individual is truly paramount. If you stand back (Metaphorically speaking) you must consider, Human Rights, Proportionality, Fairness and the Law. Just ask the question – would I be happy if this happened to me?

So we return to the perpetual merry go round of the gatekeepers (Press Complaints Authority, Data Commissioner Office, Civil Litigators, Police, Serious Organised Crime Agency) seeking to censure and penalise the information gatherers – who can be routinely fined and sometimes jailed if their actions break the, “Privacy Laws”, that have been introduced over the years.

At the end of the day – Journalists must not and should not be criminalised, as Leveson admits the, “Free and democratic society”, argument applies. Investigative journalists can actually justify their, “Raison de etre” that their means justify the ends, but, unfortunately in the main, Private Investigators cannot make the, “Public domain” argument.

There are certain similarities between investigative journalists and private investigators – neither profession recognises the, “Dumb and dumber”, type trolls that conducted the recent phone hacks as a member of their profession and both will wince and shake their heads with incredulity at the activities of some idiots that try to operate under their respective banners.

No court in the land will prosecute a hack for reporting the news, but when the privacy demarcation is crossed by the PI there will be consequences.

Burton Regan Detective Bureau (Professional Private Investigators),

Inc: Private Investigator Training UK,
Blackwell House, Guildhall Yard, London, EC2V 5AE.

Tel: 0800 279 7752

Member: Association of British Investigators
Kevin J Regan is the Secretary of the ABI Training Academy
Member: Forensic and Policing Services Association
Member: United Kingdom Process Servers Association
Member: The eAssessment Association
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