In accordance with the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Regulation of Investigative Powers at Work Act 2000 (RIPA), it is lawful to conduct covert surveillance in the workplace. The Human Rights Act is relevant to Public Authorities and RIPA gives guidance across many sectors of covert surveillance. So, the use of covert surveillance is lawful, but there are still some things you ought to take into account…
For over two decades, Expert Investigations Group have been conducting covert surveillance in the commercial sector with outstanding success. As managing director of Expert Investigations, David Kearns has plenty of advice on the correct practice for covert surveillance:
“Being proportionate and reasonable in how you conduct your surveillance for the needs required to confirm or disprove your suspicion is the foundation of pulling any covert surveillance operation together. Follow this principle and you will not breach any guidelines.”
Covert surveillance is useful in a variety of cases. Covert surveillance can be used across a wide range of issues. From matrimonial and childcare related issues (usually for Family Solicitors), gathering evidence of anti-social behaviour (ASB), protest groups and much more.
But it can also be used to detect dishonest employees. By following an employee who has stolen property from their employer, or an employee claiming to be sick and unfit for work, when suspicion believes they are fit, active and healthy is a regular covert surveillance requirement. It is lawful to follow them any time of the day, night or weekend if it is going to be beneficial to the investigations. This may include going to a gym (if off sick), playing golf, working elsewhere.
Here are just a few case studies where Expert Investigations have caught out dishonest employees, using covert surveillance:
Covert video and photographic evidence can be gathered to confirm the suspicion, but would it be reasonable to try and film inside their house from outside? David Kearns says:
“The general rule would be ‘ do not film inside the house’. Have you had the chance to film evidence of them away from the house? If so then what is the benefit of imposing on their privacy inside the house? If they are conducting relevant activities outside their house, such as loading stolen property from their employer into their garage or washing the car whilst stating they are bedridden with a bad back, then ‘yes’ – film and preserve that evidence. Is what you are doing as an investigator reasonable for what you are trying to achieve?”
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Choosing a covert surveillance investigator is a very tricky problem. It is believed there are between 4000-5000 private investigators in the UK. There are no exact figures as the industry is unlicenced and unregulated. Anyone can become a covert surveillance investigator.
Less than 25% of investigators will have Professional Indemnity Insurance and fewer will be GDPR compliant. The huge majority will have no professional experience as a covert surveillance officer such as former Police or Military training. At most, they will have done some substandard ‘surveillance course’ supplied by private suppliers. Even those with a Police or Military background, though they will advertise as surveillance trained, will not all possess that training. How can you as a client check their credentials? It is very difficult.
The industry is generally price driven, with cost being driven to a minimal which means ‘corners are cut’. People work as an individual surveillance officer, which is virtually impossible to do and achieve the desired results. A client is not on the surveillance operation so they have to accept what the investigator says has happened, even if untrue.
The industry is a sub-contracted model with investigations being passed from one investigator to another, who is usually unknown to the instructed investigator. Your data is being passed around, posing a significant GDPR risk. Not only that but the risk that the investigation may not be conducted lawfully and morally also increases as the ownership of the investigation is diluted.
The Association of British Investigators (ABI) is a membership organisation that tries to raise the standards for the investigation industry, by ensuring all members are insured, GDPR compliant, have a clean record of criminal convictions and offering support and training.
The ABI state: ”Since the 1950s, we’ve lobbied successive governments for regulation. While we wait, the industry remains a ‘free-for-all’, where untrained and unscrupulous operators are free to practice.”
Moreover, only 200 investigators are members of the ABI. This leaves a conversative estimate of 90-95% of covert surveillance investigators that are uninsured and not GDPR compliant. The Private Security Industry Act 2001 was supposed to licence all private investigators. It still has not done so to date and unlikely to do so in the next 5 years.
Covert surveillance is a valuable tool that can cost effectively produce results that will save a business time and money. It has the ability to produce irrefutable evidence that has been lawfully gathered and will withstand cross examination in any legal forum.
The evidence in 99% of our investigations has negated the need for a court / tribunal appearance as the evidence has proved the suspicion. This makes Expert Investigations the only choice for your covert surveillance needs. Book a consultation today: