Private investigations and ethical orientations: a cause for concern?

Richard Kapend*, Mark Button, Peter Stiernstedt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Purpose: A significant number of criminal and deviant acts are investigated by nonpolice actors. These include private investigators who charge fees for their services, professional services firms such as firms of accountants who also charge fees, in-house investigators employed by private organisations and in-house investigators of public sector organisations who are not sworn police officers. Some of these investigators, such as private investigators, have been exposed in unethical activities such as illegal surveillance and blagging to name some. In this respect, this study aims to uncover the ethical orientations of investigators using cluster analysis.

Design/methodology/approach: This study is based upon an online survey of private investigators predominantly in the UK, i.e. investigators beyond the public police. An innovate statistical inferential analysis was used to investigate the sample which resulted in the development of three ethical orientations of such investigators.

Findings: Based upon a survey response from 331 of these types of investigators this study illustrates the extent they engage in unethical activities, showing a very small minority of largely private investigators who engage in such activities.

Originality/value: A unique feature of this study is the use of an innovative statistical approach using an unsupervised machine learning model, namely, TwoStep cluster analysis, to successfully group and classify respondents based on their ethical orientation. The model derived three types of ethical orientation: ethical, inbetweeners and risk takers.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Financial Crime
Early online date7 May 2024
Publication statusEarly online - 7 May 2024


  • private investigators
  • investigations
  • ethics
  • regulation

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