In some situations and in dealing with individuals who deliberately set set out to lie and deceive, surveillance can be a useful and wholly legitimate tool for obtaining evidence. In addition, where evidence is obtained by lawful surveillance, the quality of it can be extremely high and can make the difference between winning a losing a case.
In legal terms, there is much confusion as to what is legal and appropriate when it comes to surveillance and what is not, and we deal with this below. The key point when considering surveillance is to instruct professionals who are not only competent in obtaining the necessary evidence but who know the law and are committed to abiding by it.
We have had many situations where clients advise us that they have been told by other Investigators that they can simply trust that the Investigator can obtain evidence and they should not worry about how it is obtained as would be no comeback on the client. This is incorrect and extremely dangerous, as is shown by the News of the World hacking scandal where those that allegedly commissioned the illegal activity are being prosecuted as well as those who actually carried out hacking.
Such scenarios as the above might put off many from considering surveillance at all but I want to emphasise that when done right, it is perfectly lawful.
Consider the fact that many insurance companies obtain and use surveillance evidence against false or exaggerated claims, especially in personal injury cases, where in many instances, a claimant who claims to be unable to work or to be suffering from ongoing disability are caught on camera undertaking strenuous physical activity or moonlighting in undeclared employment.
What’s lawful ?
The starting point is that on the face of it, there is nothing unlawful or illegal about following a person when they are out in public or in video or photograhic evidence of a person in a public place. This is the source of lawful and high quality evidence when obtained by highly skilled and alert surveillance specialists.
What is illegal, attracting potentially significant criminal law penalties including imprisonment, is to obtain surveillance evidence on a private individual or business by using or installing surveillance or intercept devices on a subjects’ private property such as their home or car, or by hacking a phone or computer. The law on this comes from 3 main sources, the first of which applies to surveillance in the workplace
- The Telecommunications (Lawful Business Practice)(Interception of Communications) Regulations 2000 (LBP)
Surveillance of employees
There is an excellent summary of the position regarding monitoring employees here.