So, what can private investigators do within UK law?

We often get asked questions like this, closely followed by:

  • Can a Private Investigator arrest someone? Or,

  • Are Private Detectives legal in the UK?

You may find it very surprising but being a private investigator in the UK is not highly regulated, private detectives have no more powers than a citizen to arrest anyone so be very wary of someone who suggests otherwise.

What should I consider when hiring a private investigator?

Choosing a private investigation company can seem like a daunting task so I have come up with a few things to look at before making your mind up:

  • What is the background of the investigator and (if applicable) their team?

  • Do they offer a consultation to see what the case is or about or do they just say they can take on the case before they know anything about it?

  • Do you get quoted a price without the investigator breaking down exactly what they will be doing for the money?

Here in the UK, there is very little to stop anyone from setting up as a private investigator so it’s important to do your due diligence. Start by checking their website, speak directly to the private investigator, ask them what their credentials are and what makes them qualified to carry out your investigation. This company is going to handle potentially sensitive information about your situation, so it is important to know that you, and also any information about you, is going to be treated confidentially and with respect.

What else should I be looking for when looking to hire a private detective?

I would be suspicious of any investigator who says they can take on a case without asking you a lot of questions about your case. Ideally, you can have a free consultation to go through the details.

By going through this process, you and the investigator have the opportunity to lay out exactly what work you want to be carried out.


When would a private investigator say no?

From my own experience, there are several reasons I have not been able to work with a client including:

  • Being asked to carry out illegal activities such as fitting trackers to vehicles or carrying out surveillance at a level equal to stalking and harassment.
  • The details of the case could – and should – be dealt with by the police. In these circumstances, we have advised the person to go to the police but come back if they didn’t get the result they were hoping for.
  • Sometimes, after a consultation, the potential client has realised that the outcome doesn’t justify the expense
photo of a police lantern
Working with private investigators

Once you have decided to engage with an investigator, they should agree with you “Terms of Reference”; this is like having a contract of the work they will carry out on your behalf.

A good investigator should make sure both they and their client are not engaging in any conduct which is illegal and also be realistic about what can be achieved. It is important that they advise you when it wouldn’t be wise to spend more money.

How can we help you with your investigation?

At Hawk Detective Services, integrity, honesty, and ensuring our activities are legal is vital to the way we conduct business. I hope the above advice helps you ask the right questions. If you would like to take us up on our free consultation, call us on 0131 291 0507. We are based in Edinburgh covering investigations across the whole of the UK.