Written evidence submitted by the World Association of Professional Investigators [PI12]
The World Association of Professional Investigators, WAPI, is a not for profit Company set up as a private investigator’s trade Association and Representative Body, "formed by professionals, for professionals". It provides an Association for those engaged professionally in all areas of investigation, including public sector and private sector, companies and individuals, corporate and domestic. The Association began life as an open Professional Investigator Association in 2000, shortly after the UK Government announced the beginning of regulation of the Security Industry, which was to include the Investigative Sector. WAPI was created to empower the many Investigators throughout the UK, Ireland, EU and beyond, who would eventually need a licence to function within the UK/EU, and who were not being represented by the other long established UK Associations, or as many saw them, rather "exclusive" clubs who sat in judgement over the vast majority of those operating within the Sector. The current Membership stands at 420 Members and 1200 eGroup Subscribers
Once regulation became a fact, at least for most Sectors within the Security Industry, some panic set in, as to what criteria was to be imposed for a licence! The vast majority of UK Investigators come from a law enforcement background, many having retired and embarked on a new PI Career, and felt that their experience and various investigative based qualifications were more than enough to be proven as competent.
It has been published by the SIA that there are over 10,000 practising Investigators in the Private Sector alone, and of this number less than 5% have joined the Investigation Associations in the UK. When WAPI was started, the Governing Council mandated that it would be open to all and any practising investigator, private or law enforcement and that Private Investigator Members would have to have, or be granted a licence as and when the regulation started for the Investigator Sector.
Thus the determination of who was competent and qualified was to be /or left entirely to the SIA – Security Industry Authority, and not left in the hands of an "exclusive" Association who would test and examine their membership applications. Furthermore, in accord with the "open" views of the original and successive WAPI Governing Council, the eGroup (an Internet exchange open to Investigators to exchange assignments, news and to seek advice or guidance) was made "open" meaning for all practising Investigators (whether or not a WAPI Member) to be able to join, free and without restriction, enabling a wide range of networking opportunities, a massive Advice Facility where most Investigative based questions or problems can be examined and discussed across a membership in excess of a thousand. It would be true to say that very few – if any questions posed have not been resolved on the WAPI eGroup!
Over the past 11 years, WAPI GC Members have represented the Association’s Membership at numerous Meetings and Conventions including the Home Office, SIA, Information Commissioner and contributed to the National Occupational Standards generated for the Investigation Sector. WAPI has also attended and participated in a number of EU organised Events looking at trans-European regulation and common standards.
During the last 10 years of the SIA, despite numerous meetings and Consultations, the reality is that very little was developed in respect of regulating the Private Sector. Totally contrary to the views of most operating in the Sector, the SIA wanted to introduce Training and Exams for those needing to be licensed!!
WAPI firmly believe that the criteria for competence should be determined by a combination of investigative based qualifications and/or proven experience, and published a Proposal years ago outlining a simple points based system using these factors. Grandfather Rights were disregarded by the SIA, again argued by WAPI who urged the SIA to keep in mind that HGV and PSV Drivers are afforded Grandfather Rights in recently launched new standards for on-going licences for HGV/PSV. Indeed many other Trades and Professions have become regulated over past years with Grandfather Rights built in.
These are the type of Issues that WAPI represented to the various Authorities for our members and the wider Sector during the period 2001 to 2010 through the Multi Association ISG – Investigator Sector Group which was made up from a Representative from all the Investigation Associations to represent the common concerns of the broad Sector.
Membership standards & Ethical Standards:
All Applicants to WAPI for Membership are required to supply positive ID, References as to Character and proven Experience and/or Qualifications. WAPI elected not to demand a CRB check because at the time WAPI was created, it was assumed that the SIA as part of the regulatory process would conduct an enhanced CRB. This is an area now being re-considered by the Governing Council, in light of the shelving of Investigation Sector regulation. Applicants however, are required to sign that they will comply with and accept the published Ethical Code for members, plus that they will accept the Associations Complaints and Discipline Procedures (For dealing with Client or other Complaints against a Member, and to resolve Disputes between Members)
WAPI reminds the Membership and eGroup Members for the need to be and to remain legally and ethically compliant at all times – This is achieved through the medium of the eGroup and through the Annual Conventions. The WAPI eGroups are open to all Investigators, not just our own Membership.
Any Member who is convicted of any criminal offence will have their membership of the Association cancelled (or suspended pending any Appeals procedures) The determination for continued membership after a conviction was to have been based on the SIA decision as to whether a licence would be issued taking into consideration the specified criteria of "Recency and Relevance" in respect of the nature of the conviction.
Perhaps of greater importance and during these times of uncertainty in respect of Investigators following the Hacking and Blagging Disclosures and given the stalling of Investigator regulation, is that it has become extremely important that Users and potential Users of Professional Investigative Services including Members of the Public, Legal Profession, Media, Business and Corporate Clients are able to select a credible Professional Investigator who is recognised as a "Professional" and as such is a Member of an established and approved Professional Association such as The World Association of Professional Investigators.
The wider Investigation Sector has for over 60 years been seeking regulation – licensing, as has been the norm in many other countries since the early 1900’s in the 1950’s one Association submitted that Investigators could and should be regulated by the certification method through the County Court, a well tried and efficient method which had for years been applied in respect of Private Bailiffs, known as Certificated Bailiffs. Again in the early 1970’s The Younger Commission (Privacy) heard Evidence (from this Witness) along the same lines, to have all Investigators Certificated as (Certificated Enquiry Agents) through the County Courts, a self-financing method whereby the Applicant could satisfy a Registrar/Judge as to Character and Competence and with References, whereupon he could become Certificated, this would immediately bring in self-regulation this would ensure that Certificated Investigators would avoid any act which may lead to suspension or cancellation of the Certification.
To this end, WAPI seek to garner support for PI Regulation by way of transferring from the Private Security Industry Act 2000 to the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 the regulation of Private Investigators thereby affording an immediate positive step in regulating the Sector for the benefit of all concerned.