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Dealing With Illegal Requests: One Investigator's Experience

  • September 22, 2012
  • by Bob Clowrey

Editor's note: This article was written by an industry professional and guest contributor. The views and opinions in this article are of the author and do not reflect the views of PInow. If you are interested in becoming a guest contributor or have a story to share, send an email to [email protected].

A recent spate of bad publicity in the UK has left the public with the perception that private investigators operate in a morally grey world between the legal and illegal.

Consequently the number of enquiries in which investigators are being asked to bend and break the law appears to be on the rise.

Some cases are clear cut – best avoided and followed up only by contacting the relevant authorities.  One only has to look at the recent disturbing case of Bhupinder Desi who, clearly suffering from the illusion that we are something of a lawless breed, asked a private detective to ‘arrange an accident for his mother-in-law.’

Bhupinder Desi

Desi’s details were diligently handed over to police by the detective in question and the correspondence used as evidence for securing a five year jail term.

In addition to the issue of tarnished reputation, investigators often face a second problem:  Enquiries almost always begin with the client requesting a service without first having considered alternative options that could potentially yield faster, more effective and often cheaper results.

Here’s a case in point: our agency was contacted recently by a man who suspected his future son-in-law was involved with drugs.  His plan of action was that a detective should climb through the young man’s window, take a look around the house and retrieve evidence.

Seemingly nothing in the world could convince the client that of all possible courses of action, this particular plan ranked among the most dangerous, hare-brained and downright silly of all.

In the end we were able to convince him that a short surveillance operation would be far more effective, but not until after a great deal of persuasion.
We were right.  Within a few days we had all the evidence he needed the client was happy and not a single law was broken.

Staying on the straight and narrow is often little more than a simple exercise in reframing the client’s initial query and scratching beneath the surface to discover true intent.  A request to illegally tap the phone of a cheating spouse would in this instance become a more straightforward request to simply catch the cheat by whatever legal means necessary.

In the more extreme cases like that of Mr Desi, contacting the police is the only sensible course of action. But the majority of illegal requests come not from potential criminals but from potential clients who simply need a little guidance on what is legal and what isn’t.

About the author: Bob Clowrey works with, a private investigator working across the UK and internationally.

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