Is Evidence Gathered by a Private Investigator Admissible in Court?

Yes, the evidence gathered by private investigators is usually admissible in a court of law. Whether the evidence is admitted is up to the judge. Still, good PIs will ensure that their reports are of court-admissible standard.

We’ll take you through some of the things we do to keep our reports up to standard. We’ll also tell you about a couple of caveats to admissibility. We will also answer common questions like: can you use a private investigator in court, are private investigators legal, etc.

Gathering Information Legally

How do we keep the evidence gathered by private investigator admissible in court? We’ll start with perhaps the most obvious way to keep evidence court-admissible. If you break the law to collect evidence, then it won’t be admitted in court. Private investigators have to obey the same laws as everyone else. This means that the judge will reject any evidence obtained through trespassing, hacking, intimidation, or other illegal methods. In addition to this, any investigator trying to present this evidence could face legal charges themselves.

After Parliament brought the Investigatory Powers Act (2016) into law, how we access internet data changed. Although responsible data handling has always been a priority, the act tightened the restrictions. Irresponsible data handling became a crime, limiting the scope.

Clarity and Conciseness

When we compile the evidence gathered, we must ensure the final report is clear, unambiguous, and easy to understand. A judge won’t accept a report that is open to a broad range of interpretations. Because of this, we have to use precise, detached language and lay the documents out clearly.

Evidence doesn’t have to be irrefutable to be admitted in court, but improving its quality will certainly help. To do this, we make sure that our photo and video evidence is time-and-date stamped. This helps limit the scope of interpretation and provide more transparent information for the court to use.

Additionally, footage needs to clear and demonstrate what is going on. For example, in personal injury surveillance, a subject carrying a box proves nothing. You can’t verify the extent of injuries sustained if the footage doesn’t clearly show what’s in the box.

A Note About Polygraph Tests

In the United Kingdom, polygraph test results aren’t usually admissible in court. They will never be accepted as evidence in a criminal trial, and their use in civil proceedings is limited.

The legal systems in some countries do permit the use of lie detector test results in court. Still, most of the time, these tests have to be administered by law enforcement. In this way, polygraph reports are an exception to our usual standards.

Here are some common types of court-admissible evidence

Documentary Evidence:

This is evidenced in hard and physical form. Documentary evidence may consist of photographs, video footage, activity logs, written statements, court records, etc. This evidence can be presented to a judge or jury for examination and analysis.

Testimonial Evidence:

Testimonies are written or verbal statements given under oath. In written form, it is a signed document with a statement justifying or recounting events. In verbal form, it is a recounting of events inside a courtroom in presence of a judge and a jury.

Physical Evidence:

Physical evidence refers to an object or image or video of an object. Physical evidence holds immense importance when it comes to criminal trials, where physical evidence could refer to a weapon, fingerprints, or a place of crime like a car.

Original Evidence:

This may refer to an item or testimony like an ‘out of court statement.’ In a legal trial, this may be used to determine the mental health status of a person.

There are also conditions to court-admissible evidence being gathered. First and foremost, this evidence should be gathered legally. In a scenario like this, the private investigator and the party who has hired them should be able to prove that the evidence was gathered ethically, legally, and through the right channels. Since private investigators don’t have access to data more than a normal private member of the public, the evidence they gather is not dependent on how much they find. However, their methods, training, and skills are what help them achieve the evidence they have set out to look for.

There are also several ways to gather evidence. All this must be done ethically and legally, with respecting the right to privacy of everyone being put under surveillance. A few legitimate ways to gather evidence are:


Surveillance is the most common way to find evidence. This method is used by law enforcement agencies and intelligence services looking to catch criminals red-handed or gather information on their movement.

There are multiple ways that a private investigator can now conduct surveillance. To track down the movements of an individual, or find out where their location is, Mobile surveillance can be used. Transportation can be done via foot or a vehicle. To conduct surveillance on a house where suspected illegal activities are being carried out, or spouses living together during divorce proceedings, or illegal subletting, static surveillance can be used.

Surveillance can also be done by monitoring an individual’s social media accounts and their activities online that are available to the public eye. Public government records can also be accessed because they are open to the public, and do not have to be accessed legally.

Here Are Some Common Reports Used In Court

The most common reason people hire a private investigator for court evidence is in child custody cases. In these civil proceedings, each side needs to make the case that their child is best off in their care. A professional private investigator will conduct surveillance to determine what happens when the child is in the other person’s care.

Other reports that could be admitted to court include infidelity, divorce, and background checks. In the right circumstances, a judge could also accept vehicle tracking data.

Private Investigations UK provides court-admissible evidence for businesses and private individuals. For free, professional advice, please call 0800 002 0898. Alternatively, please fill out a contact form, and one of our agents will get back to you today.

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