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Private Investigators in Australia: Work, Law, Ethics and Regulation

NCJ Number
Tim Prenzler
Date Published
48 pages
This study analyzed the nature of the Australian private investigation industry and the associated issues of ethics and regulation, by means of interviews with 40 private investigators and commercial agents.
The work of private investigators and commercial agents, including process servers and debt recovery agents, in Australia, were examined in this research project in terms of the types of work performed, industry trends, contributions to justice and crime prevention, legal powers and constraints, ethical issues, and issues of regulation, while focusing on how best to facilitate the social benefit of private agency work. A detailed review of legal statutes and judgements affecting the powers and responsibilities of private agents comprised one component of the study. The second component of the study involved in-depth interviews with 40 private investigators and commercial agents, with a response rate of 65 percent. The report contains a background and literature review section describing definitions used for "private investigators," and a review of the history of the non-police security industry, including statistics on the number of private investigators in Australia. Findings from Study I include a discussion of legal powers and controls, and findings from Study II include a review of who was interviewed and a summary of their responses. In conclusion, a discussion and recommendations section notes there are remaining questions to be addressed concerning adequacy of the law in terms of what private investigators are entitled to do, and the adequacy of mechanisms designed to ensure compliance with the law. Study II respondents indicated, among other responses, the need for greater controlled access to information databases in order to provide better justice to victims of wrongs.


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