Do Private Investigators Need a License in the UK?

Thinking of hiring a private investigator? If so, you’ll want to confirm that you’re using a well-respected investigative agency. This will ensure you receive a high standard of service.

Currently, a private investigator license (UK) is not a legal requirement – though this will change in the future. In the meantime, there are several independent authorities that regulate private detective agencies.

Global Investigations, for example, are accredited by the ABI (Association of British Investigators). Today, we’ll explain who licenses private investigators in the UK, and how you can find a reputable agency.


Are Private Investigators Licensed in the UK?

As of 2022, licensing is not mandatory for private investigators in the UK. Anyone can operate as a private investigator without the need for formal training, skills or experience.

This doesn’t mean that private investigators are entirely unregulated. There are several laws that dictate what private investigators can legally do in the UK. For example, private investigators cannot follow anyone on private property, or attach a GPS tracker to a car without the owner’s permission.

To prove they’re legally compliant and trustworthy, private investigative agencies can register with an independent regulatory body such as the ABI (Association of British Investigators).


Do You Need Qualifications to Be a Private Investigator (UK)?

Legally, you don’t need qualifications to become a private investigator in the UK. However, any reputable investigative agency will ensure its agents possess relevant qualifications and thorough training. The most well-known private investigator qualifications are:

  • IQ Level 3 Award for Professional Investigators
  • Level 3 BTEC Specialist Award for Professional Investigators

Qualified private investigators may also be trained in GDPR compliance, covert surveillance and other important aspects of the industry. Some private investigators also have A levels or degrees in relevant areas, such as law or forensic psychology.


When Will Private Investigator License Requirements Come into Force?

In 2013, the UK government announced its intentions to introduce new regulations for private investigators. When regulations come into force, it will become a criminal offence to operate as an unlicensed private investigator.

The Security Industry Authority, or SIA, will be given the power to issue a private investigator license (UK). To be successful, applicants will have to:

  • Confirm their identity
  • Be over the age of 18 and have the right to work in the UK
  • Achieve a government-recognised qualification
  • Undergo a thorough background and criminality check

In 2018, the Home Office reiterated its plan to work with the SIA to introduce private investigator regulations. However, as of 2022, there has been no date set for when they will come into effect.


Who Regulates Private Investigators in the UK?

Until private investigator regulations are introduced, UK private investigators do not need a license. This means that it’s all too easy for incompetent, unqualified and fraudulent detectives to operate in Britain.

Fortunately, there are several independent authorities that regulate private investigators. While not affiliated with the government, these organisations follow strict codes of ethics. Their members are vetted to ensure they are credible, qualified and legally compliant.

There are many UK private investigator associations. However, the only one with the power to reprimand its members is the Association of British Investigators (ABI).

Private investigators should also comply with the British Standards code of practice. In general, the more endorsements a company has, the more trustworthy they are.


Association of British Investigators (ABI)

Founded in 1913, the ABI is the longest running and most highly respected private investigator association in the UK.

Before obtaining membership, investigators are subject to thorough screening checks. For example, they must pass a DBS check, have insurance and register with the Information Commissioner’s Office. They must also hold a Level 3 Award in Investigation and/or attend a data protection workshop.

Through its code of standards and disciplinary procedure, the ABI ensures its members operate responsibly, respectfully and thoroughly. Global Investigations are an accredited member of the ABI.


British Standards Certification (BS 102000)

BS 102000 is the official British Standards code of practice for the provision of investigative services. It gives recommendations and guidelines for the conduct, management, staffing and operational accountability of private investigative agencies. BS 102000 covers the following areas:

  • Responsibility and accountability 
  • Honesty and integrity 
  • Conflicts of interest 
  • Compliance with the law 
  • Authority, respect and courtesy 
  • Equality 
  • Confidentiality 
  • General conduct 
  • Challenging and reporting improper conduct 

Good private detective agencies, such as Global Investigations, are certified by British Standards to prove compliance with these guidelines.


How to Find a Licensed Private Investigator in the UK

If you’re wondering how to find a private investigator, the safest way is to use an accredited agency such as Global Investigations. We are a world-renowned investigative agency accredited by the ABI and certified by British Standards. We are also licensed in Ireland by the Private Security Authority.

Each of our agents is fully trained, highly experienced and operates to the highest standards. We offer business, technical, legal and private services, and guarantee full confidentiality for every client.

If you need a qualified private investigator (UK or international), contact Global Investigations today. Call us on 0800 073 3555, or 00 44 20 8287 7770 from overseas. Alternatively, email

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