The PI files: be careful what clients ask for!
Recently I saw a request for a private investigator that read, “I had sex with a lady I met recently and she is now threatening to tell my wife unless I pay her money. Need some advice.”
As a private investigator, what would your advice be? Would you even give any advice?
This is a really serious matter and, no doubt, is highly problematic for the victim. If they go to the police, the matter may become public and may be embarrassing and have significant consequences for the reporter. If they don’t, then they run the risk of being extorted for money.
It would be highly risky to even consider this request as a PI files as the matter is criminal in nature and (it begs the question) what does the client actually want you to do?
As a PI, what evidence could you collect to assist the client? Or do they just want you to pay the person a “visit?”
The enquiry was from New South Wales, so let’s have a look at some of the legal implications. In New South Wales (NSW), the offence of extortion is governed by section 249K of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW). Extortion is defined as unlawfully obtaining property, money, valuable security, or any financial advantage, or causing a detriment, by threats or intimidation. The offence involves compelling or coercing someone to do or refrain from doing something against their will through the use of threats.
To establish the offence of extortion, the prosecution must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The accused made a threat to another person
- The threat was made with the intention to obtain property, money, valuable security, or any financial advantage, or to cause a detriment
- The threat was made unlawfully
- The accused intended the other person to fear that the threat would be carried out
Many enquiries private investigators get involve a level of criminality and as a professional investigator it’s important that you weigh up the implications of your involvement. In essence, it’s vital that for every job you
- Obtain all the relevant information and ensure the client has full disclosure
- Determine if law enforcement is involved and the impact of your activities on their investigation
- Ensure that matters involving potential criminality (like this one, or domestic violence matters for example) are carefully weighed up and a robust risk management process is applied
- Consider your role in the justice system and apply investigator ethics
- Reject matters where there is risk of your involvement and/or risk of ulterior client motives
It’s also important to note that investigators are not “quasi-police” and have no role to play in matters of this type. In any case, you’ll leave yourself open to criminal and legal actions should you decide to assist a client where the intentions of that client are not legal.
Want to learn more about what it takes to be a private investigator? Reach out to the team here!