Saturday, July 16, 2011


If you have been following the current News of the World saga, you may have heard about Jonathon Rees, PI extraordinaire. 

If you haven't, and even if you have, you really should read this article on Rees published in the Guardian.

I stand amazed at his impressive accomplishments -

  • Paid more than £150,000 a year by NOTW 
  • Ran a private intelligence-gathering network of informants including serving officers in the Police and Customs & Excise, government employees, bank officials etc
  • Had a team of 'blaggers' who could pretext information out of targets
  • Access to various databases held by Police, DVLA, banks, phone companies 
  • Acquitted of the axe murder of his former partner
Rees' downfall came about when he was overheard (by covert listening device, no less) hatching up a plan to plant drugs in the car of a Client's ex-wife in order to get her charged with drug offences, so that she would be unlikely to get custody of the Client's children as being an unreliable parent.

Now that's a plan! Simple, effective, even elegant. Okay, so it might be somewhat illegal but, as they say, you can't make an omlette without planting some cocaine.

I am reminded of a quote from Niccolo Machiavelli's 'The Prince':
And you have to understand this, that a prince, especially a new one, cannot observe all those things for which men are esteemed. In order to maintain the state, he is often forced to act contrary to fidelity, friendship, humanity, and religion. Therefore it is necessary for him to have a mind ready to turn itself according to the way the winds and changes of chance force it. Yet, as I have said above, he should not diverge from the good if he can avoid it; but, if compelled to, then he should know how to set about it.
While Rees is no Prince of an Italian City-State during the Renaissance, he certainly did know how to 'diverge from the good'.

Now, the question arises, does this make him unethical?

My argument is 'not necessarily'. Ethics are not an arbitrary, objective, construct but entirely subjective to the individual's own code of moral beliefs. Notions of legality are entirely immaterial; if I don't believe something is wrong, then pursuing that course of action is not unethical for me, no matter whether it is against the law, or not.

It may, however, be entirely unethical for you to do the same as your own sense of morality may differ from mine.

It is of some amusement to me that at the moment there is an impetus for PIs to announce their ethical nature on Twitter with the #ethicalpi hashtag as Jonathon Rees may very well have been a man who prided himself on his integrity and ethics, even as he bribed officials or plotted to plant evidence. A case of the ends justifying the means, even if they didn't.

I guess we'll probably never know.


  1. Interesting comments but why anonymous?

  2. Welcome Jorge, do you sense the irony?

  3. what about natural law....nuremberg trials

  4. Natural Law just doesn't exist outside the imaginations of Men.

    As for the Nuremberg Trials, I'm not sure where this fits in.

    Nuremberg was simply an exercise of the Victor punishing the Vanquished. It certainly was not a universal application of justice as were any Allies in the docks for their part in the Rape of Berlin, or the firebombing of Dresden and Tokyo, for example?

    A little one-sided there, I feel.