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UK private eyes are setting up an online forum designed to dispel myths about the profession.

The esoterically monikered "e-LEGAL | Gathering" forum is open to lawyers and the general public, as well as gumshoes.

The site is the brainchild of Croydon based private-eye Jorge Salgado-Reyes of Salgado Investigations in association with Neil Sheppard of Trident Investigations. Technical support comes from Sam Deeks of 'mu:kaumedia, creator of "The Salgado Files" podcast.

Public perception of the work of private eyes is stained by conflicting influences ranging from the hardboiled detective novels of Dashiell Hammett to films such as Chinatown.

More recently, the role of private investigators in HP's pretexting scandal has thrown an unflattering light on the profession. Salgado-Reyes said public perception of the profession is clouded by myths perpetuated by Hollywood and TV, for example that tracking someone's movements using a single car without being detected is possible.

The mainstay of many private investigators in the UK is serving legal process. Matrimonial investigations into cases of suspected adultery and tracing debtors are also important. Specialist agencies handle IT-related work such as counter-surveillance, work that's often contracted out from more general purpose agencies. Historically, many private investigators were ex-forces or former policemen, but this is changing. The total number of people working in the sector is unclear.

Salgado-Reyes hopes the forum will show the industry in a more positive light and create better understanding between it and the public. A strict code of ethics will be applied in the forums.

"The world of the PI has always been a shadowy world and the fact is a lot of investigators preferred it that way", said Salgado-Reyes. "However, it's time to drop the secrecy and step out of the shadows. e-LEGAL | Gathering will help bring the industry into the 21st Century by demonstrating our commitment to each other, ensuring respectability, trust and confidence in our standards."

The forum aims to provide a venue for PIs, lawyers, and the public to share information and best practice. e-LEGAL | Gathering bills itself as the first UK forum on the work of private investigators that's open to the public.

The opening of the forum coincides with UK government consultation on plans to regulate the industry. "As the industry moves forward towards regulation we need to be more open. Up to now the public has had no one where to go to ask questions," Salgado-Reyes told El Reg.

Interested parties are invited to case-out the forum here. ®

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