Author: Edited by Tim Newburn, Tom Williamson and Alan Wright
ISBN No: 1-843921-87-1
Review date: 29/02/2024
No of pages: 728
Publisher: Willan Publishing
Year of publication: 11/09/2012
Private investigation takes its place in a textbook about criminal investigations.
The 27 chapters cover forensics, covert surveillance, ethics, the law, you name it. Prof Les Johnston of the University of Portsmouth began the chapter on private investigators (PIs) with a typical academic understatment; that PIs are ‘by no means easy to define’. As for the upcoming licensing for PIs by the Security Industry Authority, Johnston draws on colleague Mark Button. What is striking from the chapter is how little is known about PIs, the same lack of data that has made SIA licences for other sector so rocky so far. Few have asked and nobody is sure how many PIs there are; certainly only a fraction are in bodies that would claim to self-regulate in the UK, such as the Institute of Professional Investigators and Association of British Investigators. Compared with the numbers of the guarding sector, PIs can claim to be the Cinderella sector. It’s no help to the PI cause that, as Johnston writes: “Clients employ private investigators primarily in order to ensure that their affairs remain private … corporate clients want to avoid publicity in order to protect their company’s reputation and market share.” Nor do corporates want necessarily to enforce the law and take offenders to court; the priority may be to protect assets and minimise risks. But to repeat the very difficulty of defining private investigation: can it take in routine anti-fraud interviews of insurance claimants, missing persons, and looking into who placed a bug in the boardroom? As Tim Newburn puts it in the foreword, change in the police is rapid, crime is high, and investigative skills are short. In the police there are moves towards a ‘licence to practice’, in a word to professionalise. For such a large (and quite reasonably-priced) book it feels surprisingly easy to dip into. Maybe, because investigation is such a wide subject – hailed in novels and on TV from Sherlock Holmes onwards, yet how difficult it can be to make a rapport with a witness, and seek clues to catch the devious and criminal. Of the editors, while Newburn is a criminologist, Alan Wright was a former career Met Police man, and the recently deceased Tom Williamson was a retired Nottinghamshire deputy chief constable. To name a few chapter authors to give the quality of the handbook: former Thames Valley chief constable Peter Neyroud; and former senior Met men John Grieve and Bill Griffiths. So if you are taking a degree course in security management, or you are simply curious about the hows and whys of your work, at some point you ought to open this book.