Security authority opens consultation on regulating private investigators

PSA seeks submissions on standards, training and screening for those working in the industry

The Private Security Authority has opened a consultation on the regulation of private investigators. Photograph: Thinkstock

The Private Security Authority has opened a consultation on the regulation of private investigators. Photograph: Thinkstock

 

Private investigators would be subject to screening to ensure they are of good character and would have to meet basic training requirements under proposals outlined by the Private Security Authority (PSA).

The authority published a public consultation document on licensing of the industry and said recent prosecutions of private investigators by the Data Protection Commissioner highlighted the need for regulation.

It said that to do nothing was “not an option” as the legislation under which it operates identifies private investigators as a security service for the purpose of licensing.

The authority regulates those working in the security industry, including door supervisors and security guards, alarm installers and CCTV installers and cash-in-transit businesses.

Three private investigators were prosecuted by the Data Protection Commissioner last year for illegally obtaining people’s personal information.

In November 2014, Michael Gaynor, a former garda, faced three charges of illegally accessing personal information held by An Garda Síochána and of disclosing it without authority to credit unions.

He was found guilty on two charges and fined a total of €5,000.

In October, Wendy Martin and Margaret Stuart, directors of Greystones-based private investigations company MCK Rentals Ltd, pleaded guilty to 23 counts each of breaches of data protection legislation.

They were also prosecuted as company directors for “connivance” in the offences, in what was the first such prosecution of its kind by the commissioner.

Outlining three possible policy options for regulation of private investigators, the PSA said it favoured using an existing management standard initially and developing a technical standard specific to the sector at a later date.

A sample management standard published as part of the consultation process highlights requirements that would have to be met by private investigators.

It proposes that pre-employment screening on all staff would have to be carried out to ensure they are of good character.

Information about the ownership of the organisations and their finances would have to be made readily available under the proposals.

Staff would also have to be subject to codes of conduct, similar to those that apply in other sectors.

Names of all directors and information on their screening would have to be disclosed to clients on request.

All relevant insurance, such as professional indemnity and employer liability would also have to be in place.

The authority said it was committed to the licensing of private investigators (including sole traders) by the end of this year.

Work on a specific technical standard for the industry would begin in the first quarter of 2016.

A questionnaire issued by the PSA in 2013 to gather information on the nature and scope of the private investigator sector got 21 responses, inclluding 17 from private investigators. All supported the licensing of the sector by the PSA.

Submissions must be made to the authority by February 20th.