Illegal Tricks Of Pi's PI's use devious,illegal methods
Posted 23 August 2005 - 10:16 AM
Private investigators often use devious, and some say illegal, methods to gain information about their prey. JOHN FLINT reports:
PRIVATE investigators no longer need to trawl through rubbish bins.
Armed with clipboards, mock questionnaires and bogus ID badges, they pose as market researchers to get the lowdown on their prey.
The Sunday Times has obtained a copy of a questionnaire used by a large Perth-based private investigation firm to elicit personal information from people under surveillance – most often workers' compensation claimants.
The questionnaire can save investigators hundreds of hours of sitting in a car outside a subject's house. For example, finding out where and when they do weekly grocery shopping can set them up to be covertly filmed.
A former investigator, who spilt the beans on the subterfuge, said he left the industry because he was disillusioned with the underhand and illegal methods used to obtain information and surveillance footage.
"I was meant to be looking for people engaged in fraud, but I was being asked to use fraudulent means to do so," he said. "This was happening on a daily basis."
He said the questionnaire was a blatant form of entrapment.
The yellow, four-page questionnaire is headed "Marketing & Advertising Research Services".
The investigator is instructed to say: "My name is . . . from Marketing & Advertising Services. How are you? Our company is commissioned to conduct research into people's perceptions and attitudes to a variety of subjects."
To ensure they get the right person to the door, they ask: "Is there a (gentleman/lady) available please, preferably in the (20-30, 40-50, etc) age bracket? I am a bit low on numbers for that age bracket for my overall quota. Thank you."
The dozens of questions that follow touch on everything from politics to school education, public transport, occupation and leisure activities.
Although some of the questions are innocuous, others are loaded to provide answers that will give investigators a mine of useful information.
One question asks: "Do you use your own washing machine or a laundromat?" If the answer is laundromat, the questionnaire prompts the interviewer to probe for a location and an exact time.
The investigator is encouraged to probe for details about where the subject's children go to school so that footage of them picking up their children can be obtained.
A question about the respondent's satisfaction with police could easily lead into a discussion about past scrapes with the law.
The Australian Market and Social Research Society was appalled when told about the questionnaire by The Sunday Times.
WA division chairman Nicky Munro said: "I am horrified by it. It is collecting information under false pretences.
"It is totally unethical and it is a direct breach of the Privacy Act. We have a code of ethical behaviour that says that anything that people tell you will not be used in any adverse way against them.
"The Privacy Act specifically states that you have to make people aware of the use that you are going to make of the information that they are providing. We would like to take further action on this."
Sgt Steve Wood, of the WA Police Commercial Agents Branch, which licenses private investigators, said he did not believe the activity was an offence under the Security and Related Activities (Control) Act.
"At the end of the day the people are under no obligation to answer questions, whether it's from a legitimate market research company or an investigator who is posing as one," he said.
There were moral problems and possible breaches of other laws that police didn't have responsibility for.
One of Perth's largest private-eye firms, Meridian Services, defended the use of subterfuge, but said it did not use the questionnaire.
Boss Ian French said pretexts were a legitimate tool in certain circumstances, but he insisted his investigators kept inside all the relevant laws.
"Apart from following skills, filming skills and lip-reading skills, there are also pretext skills that an investigator may apply to ensure that he has the correct identification of the subject prior to commencing surveillance or investigation," Mr French said.
"Our people must work within the Surveillance Devices Act, the Traffic Act, the Privacy Act and trespass laws. If they don't, they are dismissed. There's integrity that we must maintain."
Mr French said there were cowboys in the industry, but he denied his company tried to please insurer clients by using unethical means to obtain incriminating video footage, such as letting down car tyres.
"We have put more jobs through in the past week where the film has shown the subject to be genuine than it has shown that the extent of the subject's disability has been exaggerated," he said.
Posted 23 August 2005 - 12:03 PM
The ACC frequently rely upon private investigators to produce medical evidence. Such as describing the extent of the difficulty person has changing a tyre that they have let down. A private investigator does not have the medical qualifications to determine whether or not someone is working, changing a tyre, beyond their capacity or within their capacity. Whether or not someone has come to the end of their incapacity is to be determined by the legislated procedure and not a private investigator.
The strategy the Corporation use is to end entitlements outside of the act. When they do so they break the law to the extent that they produce documents for the purposes of a pecuniary advantage to themselves which is "fraud".
Posted 24 August 2005 - 09:12 AM
When I wrote to these people to tell them that they were completely dishonest (copying in ACC) they wrote back saying that they would be taking me to Court. That was 3 months ago!
Posted 30 January 2006 - 12:46 PM
The point is videotapes cannot be used in New Zealand as evidence of an end of incapacity. Just as you would expect the videotape was edited to place the claimant in the worst possible light. Occasional activity does not demonstrate the structural damage has been healed all that the capacities observed demonstrate an end of incapacity. An observation of an activity for a short period of time does not demonstrate sustainability.
The ACC legislation and very clearly describe that the only way the Corporation can end entitlements is by way of the Work Capacity Assessment Procedure or similar carried out by qualified independent assessors.
For the preservation of common law you must forbid the Corporation from sending the lead and known the medical information to the orthopaedic surgeon Mr Otto or anybody else for that matter. Write a letter instructing the ACC that under the privacy act they must surrender all copies of the videotape to you for destruction. Remind them that you have found the clandestined videotaping most as to stress the and harmful to your rehabilitation process. In the same letter invite them to carry out any properly conducted medical assessment in accordance with the parameters of such assessments described in the Act.
Posted 30 January 2006 - 01:01 PM
Found this little gem on the ACC corporate web site .. read on ... (CAUTION: Have barf bucket handy)
ACC has rejected claims in the Daily News that its job skills courses are used as "a thinly disguised way to get injured people off ACC".
Contrary to suggestions made recently by the Taranaki group ASSNZ, the law does not allow ACC to simply remove any injured claimant from the scheme.
The Corporation is bound by the provisions of the Injury Prevention, Rehabilitation, and Compensation Act 2001 to ensure that if claimants are eligible for ACC entitlements, then they should be receiving them in order to complete their rehabilitation.
Claimants enter job skills courses, as with any other of ACC's rehabilitation programmes, as part of their negotiated Individual Rehabilitation Plan, and only when medically certified fit to do so.
ACC is also required to ensure that if a claimant no longer has ACC cover, then that person should leave the scheme by due process.
Claimants either exit themselves (they have recovered from their injury), or they are assessed as work-ready by independent medical and occupational assessors. ACC Case Managers rely on this independent judgement. In essence, ACC's Case Managers act on independent clinical and vocational advice that the claimant's rehabilitation is complete and the injury has resolved to the point where they are able return to work readiness or independence.
ACC's governing legislation, the Injury Prevention, Rehabilitation, and Compensation Act 2001 provides a detailed process for assisting those claimants who were in work at the time of their injury accident to return to work-readiness, known as the "Vocational Rehabilitation" process, or to achieve independence.
Once an injury claim is registered involving a moderate to serious injury for which ACC cover is granted, a Branch Case Manager is assigned and works with the claimant to develop an initial Individual Rehabilitation Plan (IRP).
IRPs are agreed plans between ACC and a claimant and set out how the rehabilitation will occur and what specific interventions (medical, social or vocational) are planned to be included, with timeframes where appropriate.
This initial IRP is drawn up at the first stage of the process. Injured claimants then undergo an Initial Occupational Assessment, followed by an Initial Medical Assessment, which together provide the baseline for all the rehabilitation and treatment that follows.
An Initial Occupational Assessment identifies the occupations likely to be suitable for a claimant to return to appropriate employment that takes into account their skills, education, training and experience, if they can't or are unlikely to keep working in their current job. The independent assessor involved may advise the Case Manager of suitable further training required by the claimant.
An Initial Medical Assessment includes an assessment of which of the types of work identified in the Initial Occupational Assessment are likely to be medically sustainable for the particular claimant. The independent assessor involved in this part of the process may ask for more information or for a further assessment by a specialist before making their recommendation. They may also recommend further medical treatment or rehabilitation to assist the claimant, or they may identify that the original injury has resolved.
Both assessors are independent of ACC and are required to provide independent, professional and fair assessments of a claimant's condition, their need for rehabilitation and their ability to work. The assessors send copies of their reports to the claimant and his or her Case Manager. The Case Manager then uses the reports to decide whether a claimant needs rehabilitation or is able to make an immediate return to work-readiness or independence.
If a claimant requires further rehabilitation, this will be agreed with the claimant and incorporated into their Individual Rehabilitation Plan (IRP). This rehabilitation may involve the claimant taking part in any of a wide range of programmes. Some examples:
• Pre-employment programmes can prepare claimants to tackle the process of active job seeking, such CV and job interview preparation.
• These pre-employment programmes are part of ACC's Work Preparation Programme (WPP) which is designed to help all claimants who are unable to return to their previous occupation, including those who have been away from work for some time and may have difficulty re-entering the workplace. The WPP aims to assist claimants to realise their potential and regain confidence, and identify and manage factors that are creating barriers to their return to work-readiness. Claimants go onto a WPP as part of their negotiated Individual Rehabilitation Plan, only when medically certified as fit to do so. There is a physical part of a WPP, involving exercise, which is specifically tailored to the claimant's needs and supervised by properly qualified staff.
• Short training courses can give claimants the means to improve their employability by expanding their existing skills and/or by helping them to gain new skills that are linked to their existing skills and experience and/or the identified jobs.
• Work-ready programmes can help claimants prepare for full-time employment (defined as 35 hours or more per week), e.g. through work trials.
Claimants may also undergo a Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE), an assessment of what a claimant can do at a particular point, in response to broadly defined physical work demands.
FCEs are not stand-alone assessments like Initial Occupational Assessments or Initial Medical Assessment but are used only in conjunction with other rehabilitation tools.
The claimant's Individual Rehabilitation Plan (IRP) is the key process used by ACC to ensure appropriate rehabilitation interventions are provided to claimants in a timely manner (for example weekly compensation). Once a claimant's identified rehabilitation requirements are completed, they undergo a Vocational Independence Occupational Assessment, followed by a Vocational Independence Medical Assessment, conducted by independent assessors. The processes involved are similar to those of the Initial Occupational Assessment and the Initial Medical Assessment (outlined earlier) but this second set of assessments must not be conducted by those who undertook the first assessment.
These assessments will either confirm that rehabilitation is complete, or that more is required, or that the injury has resolved.
• If, after considering assessments, ACC concludes that the claimant is unlikely to return to full-time work, they will continue to receive weekly compensation which may be at a reduced rate if the claimant works part-time. Their Case Manager will then discuss the claimant's on-going rehabilitation and long-term goals with them including any further necessary medical assessment or treatment.
• If ACC concludes after consideration of the assessments that a claimant is fit enough to work full-time (at least 35 hours per week), claimants will receive weekly compensation for three months while they look for work. During this period, ACC will fund a Job Search programme for claimants. Case Managers will also provide these claimants with budgeting and counselling assistance, a list of employment agencies and on-going case management support. ACC's rehabilitation process would be completed, once all treatment and vocational rehabilitation has concluded.
ACC finds that a few claimants who have been on the scheme for years have had difficulty engaging in the active rehabilitation processes that the Injury Prevention, Rehabilitation, and Compensation Act 2001 now sets down. This small minority of claimants may regard the Corporation's regular comprehensive assessments of rehabilitation progress, now as frequent as every six months, as intrusive and a threat to the continuation of their entitlements such as weekly compensation. But ACC entitlements are not welfare benefit payments. Their continuation is dependent on injury-related need and linked to the active rehabilitation and reassessment processes that make up every ACC claimant's treatment pathway to work-readiness or independence.
Every person with an interest in ACC is entitled to accurate and authoritative information. ACC welcomes the opportunity to correct the erroneous assertions made by ASSNZ.
Posted 30 January 2006 - 01:41 PM
S. 77 says: "In preparing an IRP ACC must assess.......
From those assessments an IRP is then developed and implemented and the claimant cooperates in that process BUT not until after the needs assessment are done.
How on earth is it logical, rationale and lawful, to expect a claimant to work with ACC and develop an initial IRP when they haven't even had the s.77 assessments of need for rehabilitation.
That fact is, it's not.
This process of needs assessments first, was made quite clear to ACC in Weir v ACC in the High Court in August 2004 by Justice Miller.
"Once an injury claim is registered involving a moderate to serious injury for which ACC cover is granted, a Branch Case Manager is assigned and works with the claimant to develop an initial Individual Rehabilitation Plan (IRP)."
It is false information on ACC's website.
Posted 30 January 2006 - 01:52 PM
In your post above, along with the legal facts of the matter, you said ...
Does this mean that because you point out false information on the ACC's own website that you are bad mouthing ACC?
Just thought I'd ask....
Posted 02 May 2011 - 12:09 PM