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What is an investigation and the role of the investigator?

This article outlines the concept of an investigation and the role of the investigator.
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© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0

What is an investigation?

There are several definitions of a criminal investigation, but the one for England and Wales is set out in the Code of Practice to the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996 (CPIA). This defines a criminal investigation as:​

An investigation conducted by police officers with a view to it being ascertained whether a person should be charged with an offence, or whether a person charged with an offence is guilty of it.​
(CPIA 1996)

Investigations can be either reactive or proactive​ and may be carried out in relation to:​

  • Crimes that have been committed​
  • Identifying whether a crime has actually been committed, with a view to commencing criminal proceedings​
  • Crimes that the police believe may be committed, for example, when premises or individuals are kept under observation for a period of time, with a view to the possible institution of criminal proceedings.

What responsibilities does the investigator have?

An investigator is responsible for:​

  • Identifying lines of enquiry​
  • Securing material​
  • Recording information ​
  • Producing a report​
  • Giving evidence​
  • Retaining records​
  • FIM considerations

(Betts 2017)


Betts, M.,J. (2017) Investigation of Fraud and Economic Crime Oxford: Oxford University Press

London: Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act (1996) [online]. available from [11 July 2019]

© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0
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