Whether you need computer forensics, covert vechicle tracking, debugging, witness statements or undercover investigations, you want to be sure that your investigator shares your goals and can be trusted to do the job effectively, affordably, efficiently and legally. Luckily, we’re here to help.
What You’ll Learn in This Article
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People often tell me they would make good investigator because they are observant and patient. A board member of one of the investigator’s associations has expressed this view: “academic qualifications are not necessary; patience common sense and tenacity are the important qualities. I once employed my elderly aunt simply because she was very thorough – and she didn’t look like a detective.”
This paints the picture of an industry where even the supposed leaders adopt a hap hazard approach. It seems like many investigators are doing their best to maintain the typical television portrayal of a ‘private eye’ and the truth is, there is nothing to stop them. The investigation industry is still currently unregulated by the Security Industry Act 2003, still allowing for substandard investigators in the industry. It is past time for a change. The role of the investigator needs to be an operational and a business role, whether you are working as a sole individual, a partnership or as like Expert Investigations Group, a large established company.
So operationally what makes a good investigator?
First, it is essential to know the law, the stated cases and the points to prove for the commission of the offence. If they do not know these then how can they investigate?
Second, they must be experienced in lawfully gathering, preserving and presenting evidence in the correct way so that no laws, regulations or procedures are breached. In which case the evidence will be admissible and will stand cross examination in any legal forum.
Third, they must have the right operational skills. If they are a surveillance officer, are they highly trained? If they are going to interview both suspect and / or witness, have they got experience in following the correct models, such as the PEACE method? Are they aware of the rules for introduction of hearsay, specific aspects of guidelines, such as R v Johnson and R v Turnbull, in order that all evidence has been secured in the statement or interview?
Fourth, do they know the rules of logging and collating evidence and the introduction of used and unused material?
Aside from operational capabilities, a good investigator understands their clients’ needs and requirements and have the infrastructure to ensure that they continually provide the highest service.
Within the workplace there is often the need to utilise the resources of covert investigations, but clients are often unaware of the legal position of doing so. Expert Investigations utilises a whole range of pro-active and reactive covert resources and for the two decades we have been operating, our integrity has never been questioned regarding legalities or procedure. We will follow or observe employees within small, medium and large companies and within local authorities or Government sectors and at no time will any laws be breached.
We will take possession of company computers and mobile phones and retrieve deleted data. We will conduct background and financial checks on individuals and companies and we will place covert tracking devices on vehicles or in assets all in accordance with the law.
The legal position varies slightly from private to public sector. The public sector is regulated by the Regulatory Investigatory Powers at Work Act (RIPA) and the Human Rights Act and these dictate that an authorised officer within the organisation gives consent for covert investigations. This is not a barrier to the investigation; RIPA just ensures that the covert methods are proportional. The private sector is not governed by such legislation, but if an investigation is deemed reasonable for what it is trying to achieve then such covert methods can legally be employed.
Of course, this makes choosing the right investigator of paramount importance.
Naturally there can be concerns when considering a surveillance and observations investigation. Whatever the issue is, there are several key factors to consider when deciding whether to investigate, including ensuring you are acting lawfully, and that you have the correct service provider.
We at Expert Investigations have put together the ‘J Plan’ to help you decide:
JUSTIFY: Can you justify the investigation?
You have information goods are being stolen, a fraud is being committed, someone is falsely absent from work, your data is being stolen and used by a former employee or you need to prove a cohabitation. You need evidence to confirm or disprove the allegation. Your enquires have only revealed so much, you now need proof. This makes the investigation justifiable.
PROPORTIONATE: Is what you are planning proportionate to you needs?
3 days surveillance to prove a skiving absent employee is working elsewhere? 5 days surveillance to prove a theft and misuse of your stolen data? A computer forensic examination to prove data has been emailed to the employee’s home? A period of surveillance to show one of the former matrimonial party is conducting undisclosed employment. This is all proportionate for your investigation. What you are doing is reasonable for what you wish to achieve and is proportionate to confirming or disproving the allegation/information.
LAWFUL: Is the investigation lawful?
You may need to use this evidence for use in an internal discipline investigation, a civil recovery exercise or criminal investigation or to disclose in any legal requirement. Investigation evidence is lawful and will not breach Human Rights or Regulatory Investigatory Powers at Work Acts, if procedures are adhered to correctly. Public Authorities must adhere to specific legislation, but generally outside the Public Authority arena you can conduct virtually all investigations without falling foul of legislation. The simple marker post is “Is what I am doing reasonable for what I wish to achieve?”
You have the allegation/information, what you are suggesting is reasonable and in a proportionate manner, you need the evidence assist and have closure. The investigation is necessary. It is not a ‘fishing’ expedition.
The Mayfair Brothel
Although traditionally not thought of as part of the property litigation solicitors’ toolbox, at Expert Investigations Group we are regularly instructed by property litigation solicitors that require proactive evidence to be gathered.
Clearly the benefit can be seen for process serving, for locate trace reports and asset reports but what about aspects of surveillance, test purchases and covert background enquiries?
What about your clients’ property that is being used as a brothel?
What about your clients’ property that has squatters in it and you need to know how many?
What about the protest group that is blockading your client’s development, or besetting their workplace?
What about the drug den in your clients’ property?
These are all enquiries which we’ve undertaken in the last 12 months where we have used surveillance, observations or test purchases to gather evidence, in order assist you in dealing with the issue for your client.
At the risk of being salacious, we were asked to investigate a high-value London residency where we were told it was being used as a brothel. Being former police detectives we understand the law and the relevant offences constituting running a property as a brothel. You will understand that your client needs to have primary evidence: evidence that cannot be refuted to prove the commission of the offence.
This is the case of operation Mayfair, a £5 million property divided into flats with one female using the premises for the purpose of prostitution. A simple, cost-effective investigation identified information on the Internet, but that information did not confirm sexual activity was taking place at the premises.
A recorded pre-text call was made for an appointment, explicit sexual conversations took place between our officer and the female on the phone. The appointment was made, at which point the officer was only given the name of the road to attend and then make a further call for the property address. The officer had requested specific garments to be worn which would only be worn for such sexual activity.
The officer attended the street at the given time, phoned the number and was given the full address including the flat number of the premises. Using two covert cameras the officer rang went to the address given.
The door was answered by a mid-20s female, wearing the central garments as requested and our officer engaged the female in conversation, once again confirming costs for services and details. Whilst this may appear initially to be unnecessary, this information in conversation is vital for proving the commission of the offence and the fact that the premises were being used for the purpose of prostitution.
Under a prearranged pretext, the officer left the premises having covertly recorded all of the information.
Later that afternoon the report and supporting video evidence was sent to the property litigation solicitor, who then had all of the evidence he needed to advise his client and evict the female renting the premises.
Allegations of Bullying
Often there is the need for an impartial investigation to be conducted especially whenever complaints of harassment and discrimination are made within the workplace.
A particular section of the public’s sector utilises services of Expert Investigations to conduct interviews and investigations where such allegations have been made in order to give a total element of impartiality.
One such complaint from a public-sector service in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, involved an allegation of bullying by a senior member of a team. As a result of which interviews were conducted with all relevant parties, other supporting witnesses were identified and other means of securing and preserving evidence such as computer data files and written document records were identified and used in the investigation.
All of this was put together in one simple easy to understand file for the HR department to progress and deal with the issue and allegation of harassment internally.
Christmas Party Harassment
In another case, following a Christmas festive party, our clients based in Worcester were aware that a potential indecent assault had been made on a female employee and two male employees had been fighting and one assaulted another as a result of the allegation of indecent assault.
Whilst many people had been present at the event, large amounts of alcohol consumed by many attendees and there were conflicting accounts of what had occurred, the clients decided there was a requirement to conduct a proper professional investigation in an impartial manner and therefore instructed the services of Expert Investigations.
Interview teams (that being two former Police Detectives from Expert Investigations liaised with the client and conducted detailed interviews with all relevant parties both witnesses and suspects. The location of the alleged assaults was visited and further supporting evidence such as CCTV footage was gathered. This allowed a full report to be put together confirming and disproving the relevant allegations and this information was handed to the HR department who then progressed to the disciplinary stage to deal with all parties concerned. In consultation with the victims they themselves decided to make no formal complaint to the Police.
Regardless of how you choose to proceed, we can provide a full range of ways to assist you and gather the evidence that you need to make the best possible decision going forward. That’s why we’re the experts.
In one recent case, a large manufacturing client based in Derbyshire was having criminal damage caused on a production track, causing the closure of the track and the workforce being unused. In addition, the companies’ service levels were not being met due to the breakdown in the track.
An undercover officer was inserted via a recruitment agency and worked along the shift upon which the track was being damaged by the subversive individual.
During the weeks that the officer was working on the production line, he was able to identify the militants who were causing the damage, as well as other unacceptable issues, such as selling controlled illegal drugs, selling stolen goods and pornography. The evidence was produced for the in-house legal team and the officer was extracted under a very feasible cover story leaving the evidential trail complete for investigation.