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Private investigators in Australia : work, law, ethics and regulation


This is a report on a project partially funded by the Criminology Research Council. The original title of the project, in the name of Tim Prenzler, was "Private investigators in Australia : work, law, ethics and regulation". The study analysed the nature of the private investigation industry and associated issues of ethics and regulation, based on a comprehensive study of legal powers and controls and interviews with 40 practitioners. Private investigators are vital to the business operations of insurance companies and legal firms and provide significant public good in the fight to reduce the cost of fraud to the community and in facilitating justice for aggrieved parties who are owed money or who are the victims of crimes or other wrongs. The sensitive nature of private agency work and conflicts with privacy principles can lead to abuses of position; however there is also a growing sense of professionalism among investigators who are strongly supportive of an enlarged role for governments in further lifting standards of conduct and the image of the industry. Governments need to pay more attention to such matters as improved pre service training of private investigators, more active consultation with the industry, and finding a more productive balance between justifiable requests for information and the interests of personal privacy. There is a case for strengthening controls on access to confidential information held by governments while also expanding controlled access by private agents for legitimate purposes.

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