What you need to know about hiring a private detective in Spain

The number of private detectives in Spain has increased by a whopping 80 per cent in the past decade. Here's what you need to know about hiring one.

What you need to know about hiring a private detective in Spain
The number of private detectives in Spain has increased by 80 per cent in the past decade. Photo: Pixabay

How many private detectives are there in Spain?

The number of private detectives has increased by 80 per cent in the past decade, from 2.452 in 2010 to 4.391 in 2020, according to data from the Interior Ministry.

The number of private detective offices, however, has decreased since 2015. There are currently 1.238 across the country.

How does someone become a private detective?

The Interior Ministry keeps a census of private detectives, who must possess a Professional Identity Card which is issued by the Cuerpo Nacional de Policía, Spain’s national police force. This is the official document that allows them to work as private detectives.

In order to get one of these cards, they need to have passed private investigation training course recognised by the Ministry of Interior.

There are also several other requirements. Applicants must not have been sanctioned in the previous two years for a serious or very serious infraction in matters of private security, or been sentenced for illegitimate interference in the right of honour, personal and family privacy or violated the secrecy of communications or other fundamental rights in the five years.

What can they investigate?

Although the investigations carried out by private detectives range from private parties to personal relationships, certain limits are established in article 48 of the private security law. 

For example, they cannot investigate crimes that can be prosecuted by the authorities. They have the obligation of reporting anything that could be considered illegal, and must prove any information or material that they may have obtained up to that point.

All investigations carried out by private detectives must appear in the official register of the Central Unit of Private Security of the Police (Central de Seguridad Privada de la Policía), which is available to the judicial authorities.

Are they required to collaborate with the police?

Private detectives have the obligation of collaborating with the security forces. Judicial authorities can request reports, and any documents, graphic and bibliographic evidence.

If detectives discover crimes that could be prosecuted, they must immediately make any information available to the authorities.

What kinds of things do they usually investigate?

Aside from occasionally being hired by politicians, private detectives have been busy in the past couple of years investigating issues related to the pandemic: from illegal parties in Ibiza to employees lying about getting Covid-19 in order to take sick leave.

In 2019, a town near Salamanca even hired private detectives to punish those who failed to clean up after their dogs on the street.

How much does it cost?

Private detectives tend to charge per hour. Rates vary between €30 and €60 per hour on a working day. Weekends or out of work hours can go up to €50 or €80 per hour. You will also have to take into account any expenses required during the investigation.

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Shock as Spain tells foreigners how to cancel their criminal record 

Spain's Justice Ministry has caused outrage after it sent out a tweet explaining how foreign nationals can cancel their criminal record online themselves in order to gain Spanish citizenship. 

Shock as Spain tells foreigners how to cancel their criminal record 

It may seem like a dark joke sent out by a disgruntled civil servant, but Spain’s Justice Ministry has indeed informed the country’s 6 million foreigners – including those who’ve committed crimes in the past – how to wipe their criminal history from the system.

“Criminal records can be a problem when it comes to obtaining Spanish nationality or applying for or renewing residence permits,” the ministry headed by Pilar Llop tweeted on Sunday. 

“Here we explain step by step how to request the cancellation of criminal records,” the Justice Ministry went on to say, followed by a link to a video describing the process. 

In the video posted on June 7th 2022, which has so far more than 24,000 views, a narrator goes on to explain that through the digital transformation process that the Justice Ministry is currently undergoing, it’s possible for anyone to personally and officially delete their own criminal record.

“That means that your sentence can be cancelled without you having to apply for it,” the video stressed.

This reportedly applies to both criminal records and sexual conviction records.

Logically, the tweet has caused a mix of incredulity and anger on the Spanish twittersphere, with comments such as “they’re mad”, “is it a joke?”, “God save us” or “instead of kicking foreign criminals out they’re helping them”.

The truth is that the possibility of expunging a criminal record in Spain has already existed for 27 years, as has the option of a foreigner with a criminal record being able to obtain Spanish nationality.

What has changed is the possibility of an automated system allowing citizens, Spanish nationals and foreigners alike, to carry out the expunging process online themselves, rather than having to apply for the Justice Ministry to do it for them. 

What’s also novel, many would say alarming, is that Spain’s Justice Ministry has made this public knowledge to many more people in Spain after their tweet went viral. 

Artículo 136 of Spain’s Penal Code allows people with a criminal record to cancel it once a certain period of time has elapsed and if they have not committed any other felony since the initial sentence. 

For those with minor sentences, the criminal record can be removed after six months whereas for serious crimes (5+ years in prison) the wait is ten years, higher if they’re charged with more than one crime. 

However, there doesn’t appear to be any lifetime prohibition from expunging criminal records for those who have committed the most heinous crimes, meaning that foreign rapists, murderers and paedophiles could technically cancel their criminal records if they met the aforementioned conditions and become Spanish nationals.