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Leading article: Private eyes can't be a law unto themselves

The Commons Home Affairs Committee was treated yesterday to a seminar with the former Information Commissioner and a preview of a Channel 4 Dispatches programme about private investigators. As committee members will have discovered, if they did not know before, the Leveson Inquiry has opened but a small window on to what is a burgeoning industry. It is not just, or even primarily, journalists who have availed themselves of its services. And among the practitioners are at least some who flout the law, obtaining and trading in personal data that is supposed to be protected.

There should be serious concern about how far the penalties for offences are effective, if at all. But the bigger question of regulating private investigators also needs to be broached, and urgently. It is hard to escape the impression that, in current circumstances, a section of the industry is making a mockery of the law.