Those people at The Association of British investigators are always going on about choosing the right investigator, about rogues and due diligence. It is all they ever talk about. Let us examine why their membership criteria is so important and our membership of the Association is so important to our customers
Yes. Amazing isn’t it? A profession that makes its money from gathering information and evidence that is presented in all manner of proceedings is actually unaccountable to any regulator. Not one. Any British citizen can call themselves an investigator and charge for their services. Scary thought.
If a police officer gets it wrong then you can jolly well make a complaint and the police officer will have to face the music. Of course, the police officer knows that his career could be severely damaged by complaints or even come to an end when they are very serious. Just knowing that is enough to steer most police officers, most of the time towards doing things properly.
If your private sector investigator gets it wrong then you really have nowhere to go unless that investigator is a member of The Association of British Investigators. You see, those people actually buy into a proper complaint system. They abide by a code of conduct and when complaints cannot be resolved, they are referred to an Independent Adjudicator to consider. A lawyer.
Like their counterparts in the police, ABI members do not want to be complained about because that can lead to expulsion. Expulsion is commercial and reputational suicide for ABI members you see. Of course as in any part of society, there are the occasional bad apples and mistakes but largely these are very rare. By choosing an ABI member, a client has the comfort of knowing that there is a code of conduct being observed.
You will know that all ABI members must be ‘notified’ at the Information Commissioners Office. This is lawful requirement of any business that is concerned with processing and storing personal data. The ICO has a useful register for you to check and make sure that your investigator actually has notified them. The ABI has already verified that for you though. If you check our membership directory then you will confirm several things at once.
Being in debt does not make you a bad person but it can influence your behaviour, your ability and create problems. Upon application, potential ABI members are checked to see whether they have any adverse credit history in the form of County Court Judgments, IVA or Bankruptcy whether that be personally or in connection with any business.
The ABI follows the idea that persons with money problems are more susceptible to bribery. Bear in mind the value of the information that investigators come by in the course of enquiries and simply receiving instructions. Highly confidential instructions.
Then, think about how cases can be drawn out over months and years. It is better to do business with a financially stable investigator who can go the distance then with somebody that may commercially collapse part way through an investigation.
You would surely prefer to deal with an investigator that can resource the investigation correctly.
Internally, the ABI does not want squabbles between its members over money. There are many occasions when ABI members instruct each other to carry out aspects of investigations. Professionals need to be paid.
Imagine that you want to instruct an investigator to visit somebody’s house and obtain his or her statement for you. Would you send a convicted thief or a known violent individual?
You seek the assistance of an investigator to gather evidence for you in a very important case but when the matter is heard is court, the investigator is revealed to have convictions for dishonesty offences, thus rendering his testimony questionable.
You regularly instruct an investigator but it turns out that he is a criminal. You did not know anything about that but now association taints you. It happens.
The ABI requires its members to undertake criminal record checks and produce the appropriate certification. This is the best way to mitigate the risks described above.
The reason that pencil manufacturers put rubbers on the end of their products is because people make mistakes. Even the most experienced, best trained, most intelligent and careful professionals do it. Most of the time, mistakes are quickly rectified and no harm is really done. Perhaps some inconvenience and a little embarrassment? Now and then those mistakes do have more serious consequences. In recognition of this, ABI requires all its members to hold policies of Professional Indemnity Insurance. This is mainly to protect clients and to provide peace of mind through the selection of an ABI member.
The ABI does not accept everybody for membership. A hurdle is the competency test. Potential members must now achieve the Industry qualification in investigations by passing an examination. This is an entry-level requirement. Through the year, the ABI provides learning opportunities to its members through its seminars, its Academy and through branch meetings.
Applicants’ details are circulated among existing members who may provide a substantiated objection to the application. As investigators, ABI members often notice practitioners that fall below the accepted standards and will bring such information to light.
Membership candidates are required to produce references from credible people and to undergo a selection interview carried out by experienced, senior members of The ABI.
There are different levels of membership and the ABI has the facility to incubate some applicants while they develop to become full members.
The ABI is over 100 years old and during that time it has learnt a lot. Members of the ABI benefit greatly from having access to that experience and it is common to seek advice from their peers. Additionally, if you choose to instruct an ABI member you know that the selected professional has immediate access to a far-reaching network of investigators right across the UK and all across the world through its overseas membership. Add to that the inner community of experts and specialists among the ranks and you will see that ABI is a useful resource.
Lawyers represent the biggest part of the ABI membership’s client base and in the case of lawyers; they are expected to comply with the rules of the Solicitors Regulation Authority. In a nutshell, lawyers are expected to use accredited suppliers but in an unregulated profession, this isn’t so straightforward. The ABI’s choice to ‘self-regulate’ has made things a whole lot easier for lawyers. A one stop shop for due diligence.
It does not stop there though. All firms and individuals need to have peace of mind; especially when dealing with very confidential and often sensitive matters. Public authorities have a responsibility to the citizenship; ISO 9001 companies have a requirement to check their suppliers.
Now you know why it matters. Why the ABI is continually striving to improve standards, to professionalise the sector and to eradicate the unscrupulous and incompetent from the investigation industry.
This article has been published here, under the signature of Mark Hodgson, Managing Director of Tremark Associates.