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The professionalization of investigation in the private sector is potentially close, yet remains so far away.

The structure for what would happen if and when the political starting gun fires is almost in place. Hopefully this will happen in mid 2014 in time for the launch of the new industry led Security Industry Authority; however, the political dilemma as to if and how to regulate the media, following the Leveson Inquiry recommendations, has complicated and possibly delayed the process to legislate investigations.

I anticipate the key ingredient to meet the intense scrutiny required before an investigation agency may offer itself for business will be the Code of Practice, British Standard (BS 102000). The standard will soon be published.

The SIA planned two-tier system for all security sectors will undoubtedly change the landscape for investigations, almost instantly. Individuals practising investigation will need to pass the criminality and identity tests and prove their competence with a reasonably achievable exam based qualification. This is what we have been expecting since 2001. That may seem fairly straightforward but the competence/criminality test is limited to the employees/operatives registration requirements only. If you want to be self-employed and/or run an agency; be it a small, medium or large concern or even the lone operative business, it will be necessary to meet a much tougher and potentially expensive licensing criteria.

What exactly is in the Code of Practice, the accredited qualifications and how your ABI membership will fit in with the changes will be some of the topics covered at The Association’s forthcoming Seminar in September.

As an aside, I take the view it would be a very good thing if practitioners achieved the available (accredited) qualification regardless of the position on licensing. Hopefully, in time, the users of investigative or litigation support services when seeking tenders will require their chosen providers to have the qualification as a minimal standard of competence.

The Law Society of England & Wales has extended its endorsement of The Association for a further three years, satisfied that the criteria for membership and the processes in place to maintain the standard are the highest available and no solicitor should be engaging a professional investigator or litigation support agent who does not have ABI accreditation. So too has The Law Society of Scotland extended the period the ABI is included in the approved supplier scheme and of course The Association remains the only sector organisation approved by DVLA. With these clear accreditations and indicators to good practice, any lawyer in the UK mindful of compliance will risk breaching the Solicitors Regulatory Authority code of practice by engaging any service provider who handles their confidential data and who is not affiliated to The Association. It is, however, up to individual members to bring these matters to the attention of their respective local solicitors but the Governing Council is working with The Law Society to better market the unique endorsement. These and other benefits form the basis of the Lawyers’ Registration Scheme.

The 2013 annual general meeting, which celebrated The Association’s Centenary, went rather well and was extremely well supported with the highlight banquet hosting almost 300 guests. The AGM business was covered as scheduled and the Governing Council’s resolutions to introduce Corporate Membership and the post of Chairman of the Board being accepted by not only the traditional show of hands but with the assistance of postal voting and for the first time the proxy vote facility. The new method of exercising members’ voting rights, brought about by the 2006 Companies Act, will be extended next year with electronic voting, which is not expected to be as complex as the name may suggest.

The Governing Council has launched into this term with new projects that not only enhance the members’ work environment and professional status, but will hopefully create business opportunities simply unavailable elsewhere.

Amid the bad publicity tarnishing the profession by the allegations and perceived activities from the few working in the ‘dark side’, stories that emerged in the two recent Inquiries, The Association has successfully persuaded law enforcement and other government authorities that the ABI represents the right people to do business with. Branch members have enjoyed listening to the Governing Council confidential reports with details on the progress of the projects. Lastly, I take the opportunity to mention the AGM 2014, which takes us North of the Border for the first time in 20 years. The Association’s presence in Troon next April will highlight its support for Scottish members who already benefit from the continued exclusive affiliation with The Law Society of Scotland. I very much look forward to the event and not least the warm and enthusiastic hospitality we are sure to enjoy.

Tony Imossi, President, The ABI

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The professionalization of investigation in the private sector is potentially close, yet remains so far away.
The professionalization of investigation in the private sector is potentially close, yet remains so far away. The structure for what would happen if ...   [more...]