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Is it illegal to hire a private investigator in Australia?

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Zara, Staff Writer

Friday, 25 June 2021

Hiring a private investigator to solve an issue might seem a thing of fiction out of your favourite spy novel, but they really do exist. 

Not only do they exist, but they also operate in most modern countries, including Australia. While it isn’t illegal to hire a private investigator in Australia, there are rules, laws and regulations that must be followed. Without following these rules, you are likely to find that any investigation your hired P.I carries out is void and useless.

That being the case, it is important to know the ins and outs of private investigator law, and this relates back to you. 

Let’s take a look at the legality of hiring a private investigator in Australia and what it involves.

Restrictions on Private Investigators 

Hiring a private investigator isn’t considered illegal, but there are a number of restrictions in place on what a P.I can and can not do. Following these restrictions will make sure the investigation services you paid for are not compromised.

Impersonate law enforcement 

A private investigator may carry out similar tasks to a member of official law enforcement, but it is strictly unlawful to actually impersonate one. Wearing any official uniform, carrying a police badge or even say anything that gives the impression they are working for the official police force. If any of these restrictions are violated, a private investigator can be arrested and charged for impersonating a police officer.

Make an official arrest

Private investigators can gather a lot of intel and information to do with civil and criminal cases, which can be used in a court of law. However, a private investigator can’t make any official arrests and detain people under criminal law. They can, as most Australian people can, make citizens arrests. If you and your private investigator are sure that you have a case and there is reason to believe someone has committed a crime, simply call the police!


Although wiretapping is unarguably a quick way to gather evidence and bring a case against someone, as a private investigator, this is simply not allowed. Without a proper warrant issued by the police and government offices, wiretapping anyone’s home, car or place of work could have the opposite effect and land your private investigator in trouble with the law.

Trespassing Property  

Similar to the above wiretapping, a private investigator can’t trespass onto anyone’s private property and would be just as liable as any citizen would in the eyes of the law. Professional law enforcement like the police has to secure warrants before entering any private property, something a private investigator can’t secure.

Australian privacy act     

Australia has strict laws to protect personal information, meaning a private investigator won’t be able to demand or share private information it gets from forcible or illegal means. If your private investigator does violate these strict privacy laws and gathers information in this way, then any case against the criminal or wrong-doer may fall apart in court, causing you far more problems down the line.   

To sum up

In short, it’s perfectly legal to hire a private investigator in Australia. In fact, you can even find such professionals as you would any other through Bark. What you do have to realise is, although the actual act of hiring a private investigator is not illegal, their means of conducting the investigation may be. Therefore, it is essential to research your potential private investigator thoroughly before committing to using them and make sure they follow all laws and procedures correctly.

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