Private investigator and professional secret

By his profession, a private investigator is led to be entrusted with a lot of confidential information of secrecy. Also, a detective is obviously subject to professional secrecy by common law and by its code of ethics.

Professional secrecy of private investigators and common law

The Penal Code refers to professional secrecy in its legislative part Book II, Title II, Chapter IV, Section 4: The breach of secrecy. Paragraph 1 is entitled the breach of professional secrecy and provides in article 226-13 that:

    “The disclosure of information of a secret nature by a person who is a depository of such information by status or profession, or by reason of a function or a temporary mission, is punishable by one year’s imprisonment and 15 000 euros fine. “

Also, the private detective is, by his profession, necessarily bound to professional secrecy. In fact, its clients, whether professional or private, entrust it with extremely sensitive information.

In addition, as part of his investigations, a private detective is led to discover confidential information that he delivers to his client and his lawyer through his investigation report.

Obviously, a private investigator is therefore subject to professional secrecy by common law and Article 226-13 of the Criminal Code.

The jurisprudence in this matter is also unequivocal and the Dijon Court of Appeal confirmed in its judgment of 28 January 2016 that private detectives were bound by professional secrecy in the following terms:

    “Knowledge by other persons of facts covered by professional secrecy is not such as to deprive such facts of their confidential and secret nature; that it is not disputed by X … that he is held in the exercise of his profession of private investigator vis-à-vis his clients to professional secrecy for facts, which he became aware in the framework of this activity and relating to these same persons; “

Professional secrecy in the code of ethics of private detectives

In its article R-631-9 named “Confidentiality”, the Code of ethics of natural or legal persons performing private security activities, states that:

    “(…) private security actors respect the strict confidentiality of the information (…) of which they are aware in the context of their activity. “

The obligation of professional secrecy on the part of the private investigator is thus clearly established by his code of ethics and concerns both the information entrusted by their clients and the information they discover in the course of their investigations.

Article R-631-9 of the CSI continues as follows:

“They refrain from making any use of documents or information of an internal nature of which they have been aware, in the exercise of their functions, from a former employer or supervisor (…).”

As a reminder, the defunct National Committee of Ethics for Security, meeting in plenary session, delivered an unequivocal opinion on September 21, 2009:

    “Professional secrecy is the basis of the relationship of trust between the private investigator and his principal. (…) the obligation to respect professional secrecy is the very foundation of the ethics of private investigators. “

Maintaining professional secrecy in the event of a detective’s control by the CNAPS

What about the professional secrecy of a private investigator if he is controlled by his supervisory body, the CNAPS, National Council for Private Security Activities?

Article R631-14 of the Internal Security Code provides that in case of administrative control by the CNAPS, private detectives:

    “(…) allow, in accordance with the legal and regulatory provisions relating to the protection of privacy and the secrets that they protect, the consultation, (…) of any document claimed (…)”

Also, UFEDP, the Federal Union of Private Investigators, federation of professional unions to which INVESTIG CORP Detective is a historical member, has initiated an administrative procedure to clarify this article. Finally, the Council of State delivered a judgment on February 12, 2014 where it specifies:

    “It follows from the very words of Article 14 that this obligation is only” in compliance with the legal and regulatory provisions relating to the protection of privacy and secrets they protect “; (…) consequently (…) articles 13 and 14 of the code of ethics can not infringe the professional secrecy, the tax secrecy nor with other secrets protected by the law “;

In conclusion, an administrative control carried out by the CNAPS can in no way violate professional secrecy, tax secrecy or any other secret.