Thursday, July 13, 2006

PI School Part II: The Stories

The most important thing I learned about being a private investigator is that the gathering of evidence has to be within the limits of the law.

A fictional hardboiled PI is happy to beat up, blackmail, or hold to ransom anyone necessary while working on a case. But the real-world PI is not an enforcer of the law, merely an assistant. The PI's job is to tail a suspect and catch them in the act, while paying attention to the relevant government Acts. Like the Listening Devices Act and the Privacy Act.

Here are a couple of stories where they come into play.

Story I: The Travelling PI

Jim Biggs has been a private investigator for decades and has built up a number of friendships in the business. When a PI buddy in Victoria asked for some help, Jim was happy to oblige, but only as a favour: he couldn't legally charge for the job, his license was only for NSW. But this ended up being an advantage.

The Victorian PI was having trouble catching a worker's compensation dodger. The suspect knew who the PI was, and so avoided heavy lifting in public, but that didn't stop an outsider from kicking up some trouble.

With NSW license plates on his car, Jim looked the part of a perfect tourist. He parked near a spot where the suspect was laying down some bricks, building a wall. Hard work for someone with a bad back.

Here's where the law comes in: you can't take someone's photo and use it as evidence without permission.

Being a tourist, Jim asked the suspect for a photo, who posed for it with a grin. Six months later, that grin was wiped off his face when Jim walked into the courtroom. The suspect pointed at Jim and said one word:


Story II: Sacked By A Chain

This time round, Jim was hired to help stop workplace theft in a small company. The company held weekly BBQ and beer events for its employees, but for the last few weeks the cases of beer had gone missing. They were stored in a small brick shed in the middle of the company's courtyard, hidden from the street.

Jim planted a listening device inside the doorway to the shed. The door was locked up tight with a chain and padlock as was usual. Parked across the street from the company's main building, Jim sat with headphones on and waited. Why? Well, the Listening Act tells us that you can't record a conversation and use it in court without the permission of all parties involved.

Sometime close to midnight, Jim heard the chain on the shed's door rattle. He called the company manager and they rushed over to the courtyard where they found a couple of the employees breaking in with a pair of bolt cutters. The employees confessed to stealing the beer and both of them got the sack.

The dodgy duo never spoke a word. The only sound recorded was the rattle of the chain.

Stay tuned for one more round of PI shenanigans in PI School Part III: The Law.


Sandra Ruttan said...

Interesting story about the chain!

Wow, you really are back!

Daniel Hatadi said...

Thanks, Sandra. I don't think I can keep this output up for too long, but while it lasts, hey, I'll roll with it.

Writeprocrastinator said...

That's good stuff. The Missus used to type up memos, depositions and such for a lawyer at home. The stories that she could tell me were along a similar line as he dealt with workman's compensation law.

We can photograph in California, or I should say at least in a public area. An employer can in the workplace outside of the restroom. You cannot record a conversation however, without the party's consent.