The media and pop culture in general play up the archetype of our profession as being the type that skulks in the shadows, doing all sorts of illegalities in order to acquire evidence against someone or some company.
It really isn’t like that at all.
We continually promote ourselves to law firms, insurers, businesses and private clients around Newcastle and North East as being an investigation and security consultancy service driven with the desire to help people whilst maintaining ethics and integrity in how we conduct our services that, rather sadly, many assume our industry doesn’t possess.
As we tell clients all the time, “There’s no point in us acquiring evidence for you illegally because you can’t do anything with it legally once we hand it to you so what’s the point in paying for it?”
We often stagger people by revealing how much work we turn down and not only that but how sometimes we turn down more work a week than we accept because it isn’t lawful or it doesn’t fit within the ethical structure of our business.
Take one of our more infamous enquiries:
A gentleman contacted us last year to ask that his soon-to-be-ex-wife be placed under surveillance in order to prove that contrary to what she was telling the courts, she actually had a new partner who was living with her.
We booked a consultation with the man and discussed how we would carry out such surveillance lawfully but also proportionality to his requirements and request. We discussed surveillance vehicles and the number of people required and…
… He stopped us and asked whether any of that would be necessary and could he just go ahead with getting the house bugged. We asked him what he meant and he said “She doesn’t know, but I’ve still got keys so I could let you in and you could fit some sneaky cameras in the bedroom?”
We immediately explained that this was an absolute no-go to us and that there were so many illegalities to what he was suggesting. He changed tact and said “Could you bug her instead then? Put a tracker on her? I’m not really interested in the whole camera clicks from two hundred metres away and all that. I want to know where she’s going and who she’s meeting.”
We didn’t get into the fact that GPS trackers are good but they’re not SO good that they can track a person AND tell you who they’ve socialised with. We just thanked the gentleman and said it sounded like we were not going to be the right fit for him, wished him the best of luck and got out of there.
The next day the same gentleman rang us back and asked if he could “book [us] off the record”. We asked him what he meant and he explained that he would pay us cash, didn’t want reports or anything “just photos” and that “no one needed to be any of the wiser” that we’d worked for him. He then went on to explain that he would like us to go into his ex-partner’s address with the keys he had, search through the property without it looking obvious and take photographs of any “bloke items” that are in drawers, cupboards and what not.
We said absolutely not.
He offered us £500 cash for one hours work. We said no again. He doubled that. We said that the amount was irrelevant. We just weren’t going to be involved in something unlawful. He made us a final offer of £1500 cash to do as he asked. We put the phone down.
We never heard from him again. Thankfully.
If we’d taken that job and got caught it would have ended Surmount’s days and guaranteed a criminal conviction.
Regardless of whether we got caught or not though, whatever we retrieved would not have been usable in any ethical or legal capacity anyway.