Call to speed up regulation of private investigators

The body tasked with regulating private investigators has no target date for introducing regulations despite being set up 10 years ago.

The Private Security Authority says it has begun some groundwork on establishing the nature and scale of the private investigator industry but it is “only at the very initial stages.”

“We are licensing the security industry on a phased basis,” said Pat Gooley of the PSA’s corporate affairs section.

“While the licensing of private investigators does come within our remit, we have not licensed that sector to date. The board are looking at it but no decision has been made yet as to when it will happen.”

The Irish League of Credit Unions has called for the process to be speeded up after some of its members were found to have used private investigators who duped Department of Social Protection officials into providing personal information about people who had defaulted on loans.

A number of private investigators are now being prosecuted by the Office of the Data Protection Commission for illegally obtaining and using personal information.

All credit unions affiliated to the ILCU were issued with fresh directions this week on how to comply with data protection law, as a result of the revelations.

In a statement yesterday it said: “The ILCU has strongly condemned the use of illegal activity by some private investigators and are taking the necessary steps to ensure that no credit union that is using a private investigator or tracing agent is breaking data protection law.”

It added: “It is completely unacceptable that a situation prevails whereby private investigators are not licensed or regulated in this country and we immediately call on Government to rectify this situation.”

The Private Security Services Act 2004 places the regulation of private investigators under the control of the Private Security Authority but a licensing system, eligibility criteria, fee structure and oversight regime has yet to be devised.

“There would be a few other sectors outstanding that we have not yet licensed — such as locksmiths and the providers of safes. We can’t get to them all at one time,” said Mr Gooley.

Bray District Court this week began hearing a case initiated by the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner against private investigators Margaret Stuart and Wendy Martin, trading as MCK Rentals Ltd, who are charged with 23 charges of illegally obtaining personal information from the Department of Social Protection. The case was adjourned to October.

Another case began in Dublin District Court in June against Michael J Gaynor, Trading as MJG Investigations, who is facing 72 counts of breaking the Data Protection Act. That case resumes in November.

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