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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 202094 Find in a Library
Title: Private Inquiry Agents: Ethical Challenges and Accountability
Journal: Security Journal  Volume:16  Issue:3  Dated:2003  Pages:7-17
Author(s): Michael King; Tim Prenzler
Date Published: 2003
Page Count: 11
Type: Survey
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United Kingdom
Annotation: After examining ethical issues faced by private investigators and commercial agents in Australia, this article discusses the implications for industry regulation.
Abstract: Interviews with 40 agents (25 in Queensland and 15 in New South Wales) focused on their perceptions of ethical challenges, opinions about the conduct of colleagues, and recommendations for the best form of regulatory control of their profession. Regarding the nature of changes in their work, a key trend identified by most interviewees was a shift over the period of the 1970's to the 1990's away from "domestic" work and toward insurance fraud. All respondents were keenly aware that their occupation involves numerous ethical challenges and risks. The issue of privacy was viewed as the greatest challenge. Pressure from clients to invade a subject's privacy was not generally experienced by the interviewees, but they did indicate that some corporate clients had little interest in how information was obtained. Insurance companies, however, along with government agencies, expected that all evidence obtained should be admissible in case of a court hearing. The more private agents dealt with the general public, the more they were given requests for illegal or ethically questionable services. These included requests for the placement of listening devices in homes or offices, service of threats, breaking and entering to search for evidence, and locating people whom clients wished to harass or assault. Other ethical issues mentioned were traffic violations in pursuit of a suspect, the discovery of criminal conduct in the course of a civil investigation, and the use of deception and misrepresentation to obtain evidence or information. A significant finding of this study was that interviewees reported personal attention to "self-policing" in the management of ethical risks and challenges. Still, the large majority also believed that the risks involved in investigative work were sufficiently serious to justify greater control of the industry by government. They felt that opportunities for misconduct could be reduced and that the private-investigation industry would make a greater contribution to crime control if government mandates provided a more productive balance between justifiable requests for information and privacy protection. 26 notes
Main Term(s): Criminology
Index Term(s): Australia; Foreign criminal justice research; Investigative techniques; Privacy and security; Private investigators; Professional conduct and ethics; Right of privacy
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