Private investigators and Surveillance
Workcover and Surveillance
Video surveillance can have a devastating impact on a workers’ compensation case. How frequently it occurs is speculative but it is safe to assume that it occurs very often.
Why is it used so often?
Surveillance can undermine the credibility of the injured worker and his or her claim in the eyes of the treating doctor(s) and more importantly in the view of the judge. Despite warnings, there are some people who will nevertheless continue to engage in activities inconsistent with the physical restrictions imposed by the doctor or make social media posts that only serve as fodder for weakening their credibility or claim.
Private Investigators Code of Conduct
Private investigators are bound by a code of Practice and are, for example, not allowed to trespass private property.
The WorkCover Authority (VIC and all jurisdictions) considers that surveillance of an injured worker is a “legitimate tool for management of a claim”, however, the WorkCover Authority does issue of code of conduct to its investigators under which they are expected and bound to operate.
The Code of Practice clearly states that “In performing all activity in connection with instructions, the Investigator agrees to be bound by the Information Privacy Principles set out in Schedule 1 to the Information Privacy Act (Vic.) and the Health Privacy Principles set out in Schedule 1 to the Health Records Act 2001(Vic)”;
“All surveillance activity must comply with all applicable laws, rules and regulations [including the Private Security Act 2004, the Surveillance Devices Act 1999 (Vic) , the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) , the Information Privacy Act 2000 (Vic), Health Records Act 2001 (Vic)”;
“An Investigator must avoid any actions which may unreasonably impinge on the privacy or other rights of other people (eg, when taking photographs, avoid including, where practicable, other individuals such as relatives and friends, who may be in contact with the surveillance subject during the surveillance period).”
If you have information that your surveillance has breached a law such as trespass, photographing children without permission etc then you can report that conduct to direct to The Assessment Centre on 03 9641 1051 or contact the WorkCover Authority on 1800 136 089.
There is also a Surveillance guidelines for agents (VIC)
Private investigators and complaints
In Victoria, the licensing of private investigators is handled by Victoria Police under the Private Security Act 2004. More information from the , including contact info for the licensing service.
Complaints can be lodged with the service.
There’s also a Private Investigators Code of Practice for investigators undertaking work for Worksafe Victoria. The lastest version (2014) can be found here.
The governing legislation is the Commercial Agents and Private Inquiry Agents Act 2004
The licensing is administered by the NSW Police Commercial Agents and Private Inquiry Agents Unit. Complaints can be directed to this Unit.
Private investigators (and security providers) operating in Queensland must be registered under the Security Providers Act.
You can lodge your complaint with the Office Fair Trading which administers this act. Contact information for the Office of Fair Trading.
In South Australia, private investigators are licensed by the Office of Consumer & Business Affairs (OCBA) under the Security and Investigation Agents Act.
Here’s some more information from the OCBA site.
Contact information for the Office of Consumer & Business Affairs
Private investigators in Western Australia are licensed under the Security and Related Activities (Control) Act.
This act is administered by the WA Police.
More information from the WA Police website, including contact information for Police Licensing Services.
In Tasmania, private investigators are licensed under the Security and Investigation Agents Act 2002:
The act is administered by the Commissioner for Corporate Affairs.
Complaints can be lodged with Consumer Affairs and Fair Trading
In the Northern Territory, private investigators are licensed under the Commercial and Private Agents Licensing Act 1979.
The act is administered by the Office of Consumer Affairs.
Contact information for Consumer Affairs NT.
It appears that ACT does not require private investigators to be licensed!
More information: http://www.alrc.gov.au/
Private Policing of Insurance Claims Using Covert Surveillance
This article (paid $37) presents the findings of an examination into private policing of surveillance in injury claims. The article examines the main assumptions in academic and legislative discourse relating to the regulation and control of surveillance within an insurance claim environment. The data is based on Australian 378 insurance claims where the insurer considered undertaking surveillance. The article describes and analyses the results of covert optical video surveillance of claimants in Australia. Specifically, it documents the use of surveillance by insurance companies more as a claims management tool rather than as a means of gathering evidence for future criminal fraud prosecutions. See: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/19361610.2013.794406#.UdPB8dhmMfw