Private Investigator regulation in the UK

In 2013, the UK government announced plans to introduce new regulation of Private Investigators. At the time of writing, this plan is yet to become a reality. The announcement was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government (also known as the  Cameron–Clegg coalition government).

After the 2015 general election, this coalition government was replaced by the Conservative Party majority government. So far, they have not clarified their stance regarding the proposed regulation of private detectives in the UK.

It should be noted that the Private Security Industry Act 2001 allows for licensing of private investigators and precognition agents. However, at the time of writing (September 2017), a licensing requirement has still not been introduced for private investigators. This means, among other things, that anyone can work as a private investigator regardless of skill level and previous criminal convictions.

Proposed regulation

On 31 July, 2013, Home Secretary Theresa May announced that the Home Office planned to introduce a new system of regulation for private investigators to protect the public from unscrupulous activity.

According to this plan, operating as a private investigator without the correct license would be a criminal offence.

In the announcement,the Rt Hon Theresa May MP was quoted giving the following statement:

“It is vital we have proper regulation of private investigators to ensure rigorous standards in this sector and the respect of individuals’ rights to privacy.

That is why I am announcing today the Government’s intention to regulate this industry, making it a criminal offence to operate as a private investigator without a licence.

Anyone with a criminal conviction for data protection offences can expect to have their application for a licence refused. Journalists will be excluded from regulation to allow them to carry out legitimate investigations in the public interest.”


If the regulation proposed in 2013 had became a reality, the Security Industry Authority (SIA) would have become the authority responsible for approving and denying private investigator licenses.

This article was last updated on: November 7, 2017