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Private Investigators in Criminal Matters

Potts Lawyers > Criminal Law & Offences  > Private Investigators in Criminal Matters

Private Investigators in Criminal Matters

For several years now, our firm has regularly hired private investigators to conduct behind the scenes work on select criminal defence matters. Private investigators play a vital role in criminal defence trials in Australia. They can help to gather evidence, locate witnesses, investigate alibis, and identify weaknesses in the prosecution’s case. This information can be used to build a strong defence for the accused and increase their chances of a successful outcome.

What is a Private Investigator?

A private investigator, also known as a private detective, is a professional who is hired by individuals and organisations to conduct investigations and gather information. Private investigators can work on a wide range of cases, including criminal defence, corporate disputes, insurance claims, and missing person investigations and infidelity issues. They use a variety of investigative techniques to uncover relevant information, such as:

  • Surveillance,
  • Interviews,
  • Background checks, and
  • Document examination.

Legal Status of Private Investigators in Australia

Private investigators in Queensland are regulated by the Security Providers Act (1993) and licences are administered by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) (QLD). The eligibility criteria are that you must be a minimum 18 years of age, successful completion of a training course approved by the OFT and must be an appropriate person to hold the licence. You must also be a member of a professional association, such as the Australian Professional Investigators Association (APIA).

How Private Investigators Can Help In a Criminal Case?

Forensic expertise is essential for criminal defence investigations. Private investigators have special skills to carefully examine crime scenes, witness statements, police reports, and other case-related materials to find discrepancies or inconsistencies that could raise doubts about the claims of a prosecution witness.

Digital forensics is increasingly important in criminal defence proceedings. Due to the increased use of technology and social media, private investigators use digital forensic techniques to uncover relevant electronic evidence. This may involve extracting data from devices, analysing online activity, or retrieving deleted material. These digital assets can help build strong defence strategies or establish reasonable doubt.

In addition to surveillance and forensic work, private investigators are very useful at interviewing witnesses. With experience conducting interviews that elicit essential information while maintaining witness cooperation, private investigators can be utilised here, which can sometimes lead to vital details being discovered which can strengthen defence strategies.

How Private Investigators Operate Within Legal Boundaries

Private investigators must operate within the legal boundaries of Australia. This means that they cannot engage in any activities that are illegal, such as breaking and entering or wiretapping. They must also respect the privacy rights of the people they are investigating.

Case Studies

Here are a few examples of how private investigators can help in criminal defence cases:

In one case, a private investigator assisted by taking a number of statements from witnesses who lived in a remote part of Queensland. This allowed the Solicitor to concentrate on the trial preparations and was very cost-effective when comparing the private investigator’s hourly rate with the Solicitor’s hourly rate.

In another case, a private investigator was able to investigate the complainant’s social media platform and provide information that suggested the complainant was not being truthful in their testimony to the court. The jury were persuaded that the complainant’s version was untruthful and could not be relied upon, and our client was acquitted of all charges.

In a third case, a private investigator was able to conduct close covert surveillance of a witness in a trial who had colluded with another witness. This issue was raised in a legal argument prior to the trial commencing. During the proceedings we were able to ask the Court  to exclude the relevant evidence that had been tainted.


Private investigators can play a vital role in criminal defence cases by gathering evidence, locating witnesses, investigating alibis, and identifying weaknesses in the prosecution’s case. This information can be used to build a strong defence for the accused and increase their chances of a successful outcome.

If you are facing criminal charges, it is important to consider hiring a private investigator to help with your defence. A private investigator can give you the peace of mind knowing that everything possible is being done to build a strong case and protect your rights.

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