Private Investigation Management

MD of Millbank Solutions, Mike George, explains why managing client’s expectations is important for credible independent private and corporate investigators.

Several private investigation cases are being highlighted in the press and on social media at the moment, which seems to indicate that breaches of privacy and data protection regulations have taken place across Europe. I have been following with great interest, in particular, the ‘spying scandal’ and the ongoing legal case surrounding the investigation and surveillance of a top executive at Credit Suisse. I won’t comment on the tactics employed in this case due to the ongoing investigation, however, I think it is perhaps timely to give an opinion on how client’s expectations should be managed in what is a generally unregulated industry.

At Millbank Solutions all of our investigators and surveillance operatives are former police detectives or intelligence officers with a sound knowledge of how the various laws which affect privacy and human rights, can also affect the meeting of a client’s expectations and the outcome of a case. They have undergone extensive training over many years and carry their knowledge into the corporate world. However, there are investigators out there with little to no experience in an operational environment and they are allowed to operate without legal guidance or any form of mentoring. This will eventually cause issues not only for themselves and their company but for their client, as it means there is massive potential for reputational damage. Due to lack of experience, many will happily accept a client’s unrealistic demands without thought of how they will be met, perhaps due to the prospect of being able to issue that longed for high-value invoice. Now is the time for the reputable investigator to be strong, as it is now that the problems will begin!

Any good investigator knows their strengths and where their limitations lay. For example, I have known people who excel at interviewing, but by their admission, act like Inspector Clouseau when asked to carry out tradecraft. So, those without any credible surveillance training for example really should refrain from telling their client they can meet their expectations around the following of an individual unless, of course, they intend to hire a reputable team (This would be a good time to mention to anyone thinking of hiring someone to do surveillance, that it can’t be done effectively with one person and they are highly likely to be compromised. Check first; you get what you pay for).

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From the outset, the meeting of only realistic, necessary and proportionate objectives should be embarked upon by the investigation team with rationale recorded at both ends. For example, does the following of an individual to a supermarket really take you any further in terms of meeting objectives in an online fraud enquiry? Does the activity of the subject at home on an evening keep you within the scope of the investigation or is it irrelevant? Online investigation still catches out many investigators, falling foul of the fact that privacy laws and data regulation apply there too. Any investigation must be planned with due consideration to the laws of the land in which it will take place.

I mentioned these basic points as someone who would like to see regulation of private investigation and surveillance in the UK. It will no doubt be overly bureaucratic initially if invoked, but it will protect all parties where they now work unguarded. In my opinion, being a member of an investigators network doesn’t go far enough in terms of being an acceptable credential for credible investigators. A method of mentoring and continuous assessment is required operationally, however, the governance and oversight is a far bigger and much more costly issue. Current licensing arrangements are not fit for purpose in the case of investigators and we must work to find a resolution at the earliest opportunity.

Until then at Millbank Solutions, we will continue to work with integrity and in the principles of current investigatory powers legislation regardless of the client (although we are not obliged to do so unless for a public body). We follow updates regarding relevant cases at court and ensure we hire only the best people for the job; square pegs in square holes. We will say ‘no’ to clients and have done recently, explaining that what is often witnessed on a TV drama, cannot be legally replicated in the real world.

Mike George

MD Millbank Solutions

Millbank Solutions is a security risk management, corporate intelligence and investigations company based in the UK.

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