So just how many complaints does it take for Action Fraud to consider persistent crime is
‘serious enough’ to get the Police involved?
It’s a question asked by Michael Pettitt, who has been operating his private investigation company in Kent since he completed his service with the Police. Today he is interviewed by Dick Smith, another retired Police Officer and who has for some time been the Law Enforcement Liaison Officer for the Association of British Investigators [ABI]. The unregulated private investigation industry does attract charlatans and, over the past few years, Dick has flagged up a number of these to the authorities who sadly seem unwilling or incapable of giving the public the protection they deserve.
“I have always considered fair play to be a principle to which we should all aspire,” said
Michael, “but it does appear that those operating outside the law know just how far to go to stay below the radar and avoid investigation, let alone prosecution. I am regularly told about a rogue operator here in the southeast; complaints amounting to prima facie criminal allegations and reported to Action Fraud, the only option open to mere mortals in England and Wales. Yet the response is, ‘Not serious enough to warrant a Police investigation’.
“Around three years ago, I was approached by a lady who had been gravely stung by someone operating as a private investigator. She had paid over £3,000 to this individual who had produced next to nothing for her money and she was now asking me to carry out the assignment professionally. Naturally, I needed to see what had been completed; I didn’t want to duplicate anything already achieved by this international agency.
What I saw of the ‘investigation’ was nothing short of appalling. I tracked down the ‘investigator’ . . . that wasn’t easy . . . it was evident he made it difficult for people to find him. I confronted him, advising that the lady was contemplating suing him and I was more than willing to provide her with evidence. He subsequently repaid her the money.
“But why is it necessary to take action ourselves?” continued Michael. Answering his own question, “Because we all know that the authorities fail the public at every stage!
“Since then, I continue to hear complaints about this fellow. Naturally, he is not a member of a recognised association, so no disciplinary action can be taken. I have recently learned so much more about him. Another process server in the area has discovered her email had been intercepted and work diverted to this man. It only came to light following a complaint from a solicitor who was challenging a £400 invoice for substandard service.
“Further, the lengths to which this individual goes to hide his location are almost beyond belief. He appears on the electoral roll at a house he vacated three years ago and evidently, he still uses the address for correspondence; merely arranging a mail-diversion. Nevertheless, the current occupant, continuing to receive mail which slipped through the net, contacted the local council insisting the name be removed. Bizarrely, the man got it reinstated and used it in connection with a substantial loan and to register his car. I hear that the bank is now on his trail in respect of the loan and the Police are now involved in the latter, inasmuch that they are
following up a speeding ticket. It seems that speeding offences warrant Police attention, but not fraud!” concluded Michael.
“We sympathise with Michael having this individual on his doorstep,” added Dick. “He is competing with a maverick who would clearly not submit to the disciplines of an association such as the ABI. Yet the man is allowed to operate due to a miserable lack of action by law enforcement against rogue PIs. It continues to frustrate those who are endeavouring to clean up the industry by providing a choice of investigators who adhere to ethical methods of operation.
“We note that this particular subject of complaint is not even registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office. Anyone operating as a PI must be processing personal data and the lack of ICO registration demonstrates here a classic example of consciously remaining out of the official gaze.
“We are currently working closely with the ICO in respect of the proposed ABI GDPR Code of Conduct and making excellent progress. I will ensure that, at least, the fact this operator is not on the public register is brought to their attention.“