Tel: 0161.443.4237  or  Mob: 07720.218846  
There is a site  that offers all kinds of information on children and family matters including a section offering to manage indirect contact. They also provide the facility for absent parents to leave a ‘Later in Life Letter’ in a completely secure vault, and a bespoke service directory where you can find professionals from private investigators, mediators, independent social workers, or solicitors specialising in divorce and family law.

Spring Garden Consultancy is the practice-based arm of My Child

Established in 1994 as part of Select Associates International Investigators Spring Garden consultancy’s role was to deliver specialised children and family based investigations and follow-up therapy and training to individuals and organisations experiencing dysfunction and organisational disorder. Our dynamic and challenging solution focused approach has been widely acclaimed as one of the most successful problem solving, trouble-shooting models in use today. Our approach is flexible and imaginative and can be specifically tailored to address any issues required to help create a positive outcome.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ to our work; it is a little different every time. Our success relies on the way we approach each task, which underpins everything we do as a team.

We all wonder what's going when our kids are away from home, or even just upstairs in their bedroom.
Social Media is such a powerful tool now for reaching out to friends and posting everything from school stuff to recipes. It is a great peace of mind to know what your children are doing on their mobile phone or Tablet, and it is all possible without them even knowing that you know.
Mobile phone monitoring
Do you often feel like your children are being untrue about their activities? Do you find that your children are always on their phones? Do you want to be able to monitor their mobile phone usage? Do you want a foolproof way to get to the truth?
StealthGenie allows you to do exactly that. Put a code on their phone or tablet once and never need to touch it again.
StealthGenie lets you monitor ALL the activities of any iPhone, Blackberry or Android phone and is the most powerful cell phone spy and tracking software available. The application is really easy to install on any phone you want to monitor. It begins to upload the monitored phone's usage information and its exact location instantly which you can then view by logging in to your StealthGenie user area from any computer in the world within minutes. This state-of-the-art application works in stealth mode which means that the user of the monitored phone will never find out that it is installed.

There are many people who think that hidden cameras are an invasion of privacy, but when used in the right way and within legal guidelines, they are invaluable when gathering evidence.
Just recently on the news and documentaries by Panorama, we have seen the instances where it has been necessary to use a covert hidden camera to get to the truth of what is actually going on.
The great thing about hidden cameras is that no-one but you knows there are in place. They can be built into virtually anything and record on movement activation or full time. 
They are completely in-obtrusive and if no evidence is gained they can be removed within minutes without having to upset anyone.
The hidden cameras can be installed in clothing, or day-to-day items making them undetectable to anyone else in the room.
The camera units are installed with their own SD card to record directly into the unit and therefore make it easy to remove and play back on your PC.  Most cameras are fitted with movement detection so it is unnecessary to record hours of wasted time.
Take a look at some of the hidden cameras we have in stock. They all work directly out of the box and come with full instructions for use. 

We also offer full CCTV system installation with the option to purchase by leasing the equipment and save on upfront costs.
The MEPs, by a count of 621 votes to 10, gave their support to proposals for a new General Data Protection Regulation. A spokesperson for the Parliament confirmed to that the proposals supported in the full plenary vote are the same as those outlined in a report of the Parliament's Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) Committee in October last year.

A new EU Directive vote was also held on plans for on Data Protection which if introduced, would separately set rules around personal data processing, by law enforcement bodies. A majority of 371 MEPs voted to support the new Directive, with 276 against the plans.

Under the LIBE Committee's proposals, businesses could face fines of up to 5% of their annual global turnover if they breach the new data protection laws. However, under the proposed plans businesses would be able to obtain a certification from (DPA) data protection authorities that their processing of personal data is compliant with the Regulation. Businesses that are issued with a valid 'European Data Protection Seal' would face immunity from fines for breaches of the Regulation unless the breach was "intentional" or involved "negligent noncompliance". 

What’s really involved in being a private detective?  

A private investigation career has its good points and its bad points.  It is a good industry to be in although obviously has both good points and bad points as with any career.

Years ago we had 21 offices throughout the UK and it was ‘job and a half’ supervising all of them and the staff.  Some people are naturally suited to the position and possess the aptitude to jump straight in and get on with on with it.  Others take a little longer and need more training.

The surveillance role is primarily suited to ex-military or ex-police officers due to basic surveillance training that they may already have carried out. That doesn’t translate automatically, to making them the best at the job. It is very much about attitude and thinking on your feet. If you are the type of person that has been in a multitude of situations or scrapes where you need to talk fast and have a feasible excuse then these are good attributes. Tracing of missing people requires a someone with different skills.

In order to understand what is required from you there are several things that you need to know beforehand.

There is no set schedule and don’t expect to be working 9.00am to 5.00pm with weekend off. You can get a call to work unexpectedly for an assignment on the same day as the call, or you may have to work unexpectedly longer hours during surveillance.  You may travel several hours to a surveillance assignment and be out of town for several days. This can be difficult if you like to spend a lot of time with the family and doesn’t suit everyone.

Occasionally you will be required to interview or just speak with unsavoury characters. If you are working for local law firms investigating a murder or rape case then expect to end up in the ‘dodgy’ end of the city.

Insurance Fraud investigations also have their moments. If you are unfortunate enough to have blown your cover then angry claimants are not the nicest people to have to deal with. Once the individual realizes they were being followed they are likely to make it very apparent that they know you are there. The best course of action is to just walk away (or drive quickly) and lay off the case for several days, returning if necessary with a different agent and change of vehicle.

Being a private detective can mean that you have many uncomfortable moments.  On surveillance assignments you are required to park in a neighbourhoods as discreetly as possible.  Neighbours are often trying to look into your vehicle windows, children are playing around your vehicle, and you can get extremely paranoid that you are moments away from something bad happening.  During interviews of claimant’s, or witnesses, there will be times when it is uncomfortable. Moments where there is some defensiveness or hostility on behalf of the individual being interviewed.

As an employee you are obviously guaranteed a salary but as the business owner, as with any other business, you have play both hands and make sure the work is coming through the door to keep everyone in a job.

It is of course necessary to have a reliable vehicle. That can be a car or van fully equipped with surveillance cameras and monitoring gadgets.  The latest vehicle tracking systems can be watched live on a PC, Tablet or Mobile device and these need to be kept charged and ready to go.

 The wear and tear on your vehicles will be extensive. It is like having a mobile office and without it you cannot exit in this business.

If you are thinking of setting up a agency of your own then give it a try. Please be sure to read industry manuals and be up to date on the laws regarding privacy. Make sure that you have enough money to survive on. Do not expect that the cash will come rolling in from day one. New equipment and advertising, websites and petrol alone can mount up very quickly.

Bear in mind that a lot of work from the private and commercial sector comes from word of mouth. This means that you will need to build a good reputation as quickly as possible. People have short memories and after years of building up a sterling reputation it can take a few lousy days to blow it.

Obviously everyones experience is different as a private investigator. We all get frustrated at times by not getting the results we want on occasion. Just keep at it and you will more often than not get the gratifying ‘ear to ear’ smiling results that make it all worth while.

On 31 July 2013 the Home Secretary announced the Government’s intention for the SIA to regulate private investigation activities, starting some time in 2014.

The Private Security Industry Act 2001 defines the licensable activities of private investigations. The Home Office intends to review this definition to ensure that it remains fit for purpose. Questions relating to whether specific activities will be licensable in future should therefore be directed to the Home Office.

According to the Act you will need an SIA licence if you are involved in any surveillance, inquiries or investigations that are carried out for the purposes of:
  • obtaining information about a particular person or about the activities or whereabouts of a particular person; or
  • obtaining information about the circumstances in which, or means by which, property has been lost or damaged.
Anyone involved in providing contracted private investigation services will require a licence. This includes employees, employers, managers, supervisors and directors*or partners of private investigation companies. It is unclear if the Home Office will also wish us to regulate 'in-house' private investigations.

*For the purposes of the Private Security Industry Act 2001, "director" means executive and non-executive directors, shadow directors, parent company directors and corporate entities holding a directorship.

According to the Act, the following activities will not require a licence:

  • activities exclusively for the purposes of market research;
  • activities exclusively concerned with a credit check;
  • professional activities of practising solicitors and Barristers;
  • professional activities of practising accountants;
  • professional activities of journalists and broadcasters, and activities exclusively relating to obtaining information for journalists and broadcasters;
  • activities exclusively relating to reference to registers which are open to the public; registers or records to which a person has a right of access; and published works;
  • activities carried out with the knowledge or consent of the subject of the investigation.
The penalty for working as an unlicensed private investigator will be:

  • upon summary conviction at a Magistrate's Court, Sheriff Court or District Court, a maximum penalty of six months imprisonment and/or a fine of up to £5,000.
The penalty for supplying unlicensed staff will be:

  • upon summary conviction at a Magistrate's Court, Sheriff Court or District Court, a maximum penalty of six months imprisonment and/or a fine of up to £5,000.
  • upon conviction on indictment at Crown Court, High Court of Justiciary or Sheriff and jury trial, an unlimited fine and/or up to five years imprisonment.

source: The Home Office
Q How does the Act affect monitoring?
• If you monitor your workers by collecting or using information about them, the Data Protection Act will apply. This can happen, for example, when you video workers using CCTV to detect crime, when you check telephone logs to detect excessive private use, and when you monitor e-mails or check Internet use.
• The Act doesn’t generally prevent monitoring.  However, it sets out principles for the gathering and use of personal information.  In short, data protection means that if monitoring has any adverse effect on workers, this must be justified by its benefit to the employer or others.
• The Act requires openness.  Workers should be aware of the nature, extent and reasons for any monitoring unless, exceptionally, covert monitoring is justified.

Q If I want to monitor my workers, what must I do?
• Consider why you want to carry out the monitoring.  This might mean asking what problem you are trying to solve, for example theft in the workplace.
• Once you are clear about the purpose, ask whether the particular monitoring arrangement will truly bring the benefit you are looking for and whether it is justified by this benefit.
• Remember:
1. Monitoring is usually intrusive.
2. Workers legitimately expect to keep their personal lives private.
3. Workers are entitled to some privacy in the work environment.
• Consider whether alternative approaches or different methods of monitoring would deliver the benefits you want while being more acceptable to workers. Can you target the monitoring at an area of risk, for example the part of your premises where you think theft is occurring?
Ensure your workers are aware that they are being monitored and why.
You could tell them this by putting a notice on a notice-board or signs in the areas where monitoring is taking place. If your workers have computers, you could send them an E-mail about the monitoring. If you are open about it, they will know what to expect.
• If monitoring is to be used to enforce your rules and standards, make sure workers know clearly what these are.
• Only use information obtained through monitoring for the purpose for which you carried out the monitoring, unless the monitoring leads to the discovery of an activity that no employer could reasonably be expected to ignore, for example breaches of health and safety rules that put other workers at risk.
• Keep secure the information that you gather through monitoring. This might mean only allowing one or two people to have access to it.  Don’t keep the information for longer than necessary or keep more information than you really need.  This might mean deleting it once disciplinary action against a worker is over.

Q Are there other points to consider for particular types of monitoring?
• Be particularly careful when monitoring communications, such as e-mails, that are clearly personal. Avoid wherever possible opening e-mails, especially those that clearly show they are private or personal. Monitor the message’s address or heading only.
• If it is necessary to check the e-mail accounts or voice-mails of workers in their absence, make sure they are aware this will happen.
• Where video or audio monitoring is justified, target the monitoring, where possible, at areas of particular risk, and only use it where workers wouldn’t expect much privacy.
• Ensure that if you use information for monitoring which is held by third parties, such as credit reference or electoral roll information, you can justify this. Take particular care with any information you hold about workers as a result of non-employment dealings with them, for example where they are also your customers.
• If you are justified in obtaining information about a worker’s criminal convictions for monitoring, only do so through a ‘disclosure’ from the Criminal Records Bureau.

Q Can I ever undertake secret monitoring?
• The covert monitoring of workers can rarely be justified. Do not carry it out unless it has been authorised at the highest level in your business.
You should be satisfied that there are grounds for suspecting criminal activity or equivalent malpractice, and that telling people about the monitoring would make it difficult to prevent or detect such wrongdoing.
• Use covert monitoring only as part of a specific investigation, and stop using it when the investigation has been completed. Do not use covert monitoring in places such as toilets or private offices unless you suspect serious crime and intend to involve the police.
Source: Data Protection Act Registrar
As many of you are aware the regulation of debt collection has moved to the FCA from the OFT. It was recently stated by a representative of the FCA that they considered that the activity of process serving fell under the regulated activity of debt collection and anyone partaking in the serving of process related to FCA regulated debt was doing so outside of the law.
It should be noted that this only applies to debt recovery matters where the debts are due under a credit agreement, a consumer hire agreement or a relevant Article 36H agreement.
It is the majority view of our ABI membership that process serving should not be regulated by the FCA and there are many arguments to support this.
The Governing Council are aware that this has caused considerable concern among our members and the industry.
Over the past few weeks, representation has been made to the FCA on behalf of our members. There initial response to the Association of British Investigators is as follows:-
‘The Government decided to transfer the consumer credit regulation to us from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) on 1 April 2014. Process serving was an activity that may not have been looked at by the OFT before but our guidance is as follows.
Process servers are instructed to serve legal papers on borrowers who are to be subject to proceedings as part of the debt collection process. They are specifically instructed to act in this way as part of the debt recovery process and they know that they are playing a part in the debt recovery process.

The legal definition of regulated debt collection is very wide - 'taking steps to procure the payment of a debt due under a credit agreement............' Any activity carried on by a business in the UK, on behalf of a third party, that falls within that definition, will be carrying on debt collecting (in the absence of a relevant exemption or exclusion).
We take the view that the activities of process servers are likely to fall within the very wide definition of debt collection when they are taking steps to procure the payment of debts due under a credit agreement, a consumer hire agreement or a relevant Article 36H agreement.
Furthermore, even if process serving did not fall within the very wide definition of debt collecting, it seems very likely that it would, in the alternative, fall within the similarly wide definition of debt administration.’
I have been tasked by the Governing Council to lobby the FCA and work with other organisations whom share our views in an effort to change their view.

Many will be aware that the requirement for those purely offering tracing services (and not debt recovery) to be licensed with the OFT regime has now been removed and became exempt during the transition to the FCA. No mention is made of process serving anywhere within any OFT or FCA guidance.
It is the general consensus within the industry that process serving was not previously considered a debt recovery action nor a licensable activity in the previous OFT regime. However, the FCA do not share this view and despite insistence to the contrary, the FCA’s view is that it has always fallen within the wide definition of debt collection – “taking steps to procure payment” – or the wide definition of debt administration – “taking steps to enforce a credit agreement” and that because it is not exempt, it falls within regulation.
Many have raised the argument that if process servers are to be licensed then so should postmen. The FCA opinion of this is that there is a difference between process servers and your average postman or delivery driver. They suggest that a process server has clear engagement with the individual being served.  They explain the contents of the papers, and they advise the individual of next steps, whilst postman will simply knock at the door and ask for a signature (not even the addressee) and that there is a clear distinction between the two.  It has been pointed out that process servers do not ask for, nor do they take any payment. The FCA nevertheless say that process servers are aware of what the papers relate to (in these cases debt to a defaulted credit agreement).
I believe that we need to convince The FCA and the Treasury that:
·         The primary function of process serving is to meet an obligation of a legal process, irrelevant of the initial reason for the legal action (Injury claim, return of goods or debt recovery) and; the process server has no interest in the cause of action. They are not interested in “taking steps to procure payment”
·         Both a statutory demand and bankruptcy petition are an insolvency action and are not in legal terms a debt recovery action. The purpose of issuing a demand is to make someone bankrupt who is unable to pay their debts, and not to ‘procure the payment of a debt’.

Author ABI