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Investigation Planning

Updated: Jul 31, 2022

When an investigation commences, whether it is civil, administrative, criminal, cyber or private, it is important to have an investigation plan in place. Investigation planning helps investigators focus on ensuring that the required actions are taken to achieve best outcomes for investigation stakeholders. This article will outline the key features and considerations involved in an Investigation Plan


Investigation Management Software

According to the Australian Government Investigation Standards (AGIS) (2011), a successful investigation starts with a planning phase during which an Investigation Plan is developed. An Investigation Plan is a document created by the investigator that identifies the issue, problem or incident which requires a formal examination. The Plan sets out the direction of the investigation and the process to determine the truth or source of the issue.


An Investigation Plan can range from short form basic planning, to long form planning, which includes protracted phases of investigation planning. First-hand experience dictates that there are occasions where the incident occurs so quickly that there is no time to create a plan. However, in reality the moment the investigation is recorded and decisions are made as to how an investigation is going to proceed, either verbally or written, essentially an investigation plan has been formed.


Investigation plans are fluid and ever changing depending on the circumstances of the event, such discovering multiple suspects, hostile witnesses or insufficient evidence. As investigators pivot their direction of inquiry, so should their investigation plan be amended.


Considerations before you start an Investigation Plan

As one would intuitively expect, the investigation plan is created prior to commencing the investigation. However, prior to finalising the plan it is important to obtain all the relevant initial information which will be included in the plan itself. These following would be considered in the development of a plan:

  • Identify the offence, breach or issue that has occurred. We have seen instances where investigators jump straight into an investigation plan without properly determining that an offence had taken place or the incident is part of their mandate. Take the time to research the relevant legislation, company regulation, code of ethics or civil contraventions that applies to the incident. Ensure that you have the authority to carry out the investigation before starting and check for any cross-over of any departments, agencies or companies conducting their own investigations on the same subject.

  • Obtain details of the parties involved. This includes details of the complainant, details of the alleged person and if applicable, details of the client (external investigation) or department (internal investigation).

Once you have gathered this information, you have formed the starting point of the incident and you’re ready to commence your investigation plan.



What should you include in an Investigation Plan?

Many agencies and businesses will have their version of what you should include in an investigation. Working in this industry for 20 years, Viddle staff have seen some great and varied examples of Investigation Plans, so it pays to research various templates and see what works best for you. For contracted external investigators, ask if the organisation or business have their own investigation plan as they may wish to use their own planning documents.


However, if you wish to create your own investigation plan, the best place to start is to utilise the guidelines set out by the AGIS. For Australian investigators, AGIS are the minimum guidelines required for any agency or entity conducting investigations. As an investigator, it is essential that these markers are covered in your plan. Some of the basic points to cover in your investigation plan once you have determined an offence or breach has occurred are as follows:

  • Outline the objectives of the investigation: What is being investigated and what goals do you need to achieve? This can be done in simple dot points or across several paragraphs. Keeping things simple is always best practice but include the allegation of the incident, and who are the parties involved.

  • Identify and outline possible lines of inquiries, methods to obtain information or evidence: What evidence is available and how can you obtain them? Who do you need to speak to and obtain witness statements? Outline a priority list of witnesses. Consider other forms of evidence such as CCTV footage, expert statements and external agency information. Also consider how you will collect the evidence and where it will be stored. It is important that your case management system is secure, effective and transparent for supervisors and management to review.

  • Identify your resources: Outline what resources you have available and resources you may require: Internal resources may include human resource files or company records. External resources may include freedom of information or a private investigator database.

  • Identify and manage risks: What are the potential financial, information or employee risks involved in the investigation? What is the likelihood and impact involved? What steps can you do to mitigate them? Every investigation has its inherent risk. This may include the impact or loss of revenue when business operations are being investigated. Considerations must be given when company time is taken to speak to employees involved, moreover the potential for financial loss if the alleged person is being stood down until investigations are completed. Other considerations also include the loss of evidence and its impact to the organisation or business.

  • Outline options for resolution: What is the desirable outcome? What other options are available for resolution? Are there prevention or disruption options? This area is often overlooked as some investigators feel that their job must end with a prosecution or dismissal of the alleged person/s. If the evidence is insufficient, consider prevention options such as workplace counselling sessions or further training with the alleged person/s.

  • Outline investigation phases, timelines, and milestones: How many phases of investigation is required? Is there a deadline? Consider a realistic timeframe to allocate the stages of your investigation completed. For instance, completing a witness statement may take several hours to complete (complex cases) so planning to do several statements in one day may prove difficult. Setting out the phases and timeline of the investigation helps keep track of the investigator’s progress. This also allows corroborators or assisting investigators to use this as a guideline on the expectations required to complete the investigations.

  • Outline the investigation structure: Who do you report to and are there any relevant stakeholders involved? If you work as a team, outline your team members and their roles during the investigation. Consider your lines of reporting and relevant stakeholders that wish to be involved. Also include your support staff such HR, IT and Supervisor overlooking the investigation.


Conclusion

An Investigation Plan is an important part of all investigations. It is a fluid planning document that sets out the objectives, evidence required, timeline, direction and structure of the investigation. The AGIS provides the standard required to create an investigation plan. It outlines the basis of the Investigation Plan and provides accountability to the investigator.

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