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The New Phenomenon Of Private Detectives

Adrian Mudd   May 16, 2012

The UK public used to have a very stereotypical image of what it took to be a Private Investigator and what their work was all about. Times have changed and with it the perception of the PI is evolving as well.

Private Detectives have been in the shadows of society for many generations. Most of us in the UK of a certain age will remember all the old American dramas that featured Private Investigators in many forms. Some will remember Ironside a wheelchair bound Detective. Others will recall Frank Cannon the oversize retired Police Officer, turned PI, but probably the most memorable of all was Magnum PI, starring Tom Selleck who graced our screens in his trusty Ferrari.

private investigator in a car

British Detectives are More Than What Meets the Eye

The reality of the industry during this period was that there were no British Private Detective counterparts of any note. Yes, we had James Bond as super-spy, but most of us had no real idea that PI’s even operated in any way shape or form in the UK. Of course they were there, but the profession was deemed as being rather shadowy, in fact seedy, with the public’s perception focusing on Detectives being employed solely to catch cheating couples ‘in the act’ in hotel rooms.

With these impressions ingrained in the minds of the general population it has been a long slow road to raise the profile of the professional private investigator. Yes, PI’s in the UK still engage in activities surrounding infidelity cases and cheating spouses, but in reality the bulk of work conducted by the private investigation sector is centred around corporate fraud and criminal cases where professionalism and accountability is absolutely paramount.

Of course there are many that will point the finger at the findings of the Leveson Inquiry as an indicator that the modern undercover detective is unscrupulous and crooked. In reality the corrupt are literally a fraction of the ten thousand or so professionals who conduct first class investigative work throughout the UK on a daily basis.

It is well worth remembering that without the competent work of the industry the UK’s crime and fraud detection rate would literally be spiralling out of control and we would all be paying an even higher price for our insurance premiums. So, PIs are not new to the UK, but our understanding of their role is something that is certainly changing.

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