Police link to PIs ‘problematic’
There are calls for the inquiry into government agency links with controversial private investigation firm Thompson & Clark to be expanded to also take in the police, after a Stuff Circuit investigation exposed a long history of contact between police and the company. ‘‘It’s completely extraordinary that the police are not covered by the inquiry into Thompson & Clark,’’ said Greenpeace executive director Russel Norman.
It was revealed in March that Thompson & Clark was spying on Greenpeace and that the information was passed on to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).
Further revelations that Thompson & Clark spied on Canterbury earthquake claimants for Crown-owned Canterbury rebuild company Southern Response prompted the Government to order the State Services Commission (SSC) inquiry.
Also facing questions are the Department of Conservation and the SIS, which, like MBIE and Southern Response, fall under the SSC and its Standards of Integrity and Conduct.
Now, there are questions over whether the SSC investigation is adequate, with the revelations in the Stuff Circuit documentary Unseen.
Norman says connections between the company and police should be looked at.
When police undertake surveillance there is oversight, from the judicial warrant system, for instance. ‘‘Thompson & Clark don’t go through any of those processes,’’ says Norman. ‘‘They pay people who then turn up at groups and pretend to care about whatever the issue is and then if they’re passing that information on to the New Zealand police without ever getting any proper judicial oversight of what the police are up to, that is very problematic.’’
Thompson & Clark director Gavin Clark declined to be interviewed, saying: ‘‘We don’t comment on operational matters other than to say that we operate within the law and comply with the industry standards and code of conduct.’’
A source has told Stuff Circuit that police were collaborating with Thompson & Clark to monitor animal activists as long ago as the early 2000s, and that at one point they were even sharing a paid informant.
Rochelle Rees, who was heavily involved in Auckland Animal Action, said she was aware Thompson & Clark had been monitoring the group’s activities several times, and in 2010 had put a tracking device on a car belonging to a member of the group.
She said she had tried previously under the Official Information Act to confirm links between the police and Thompson & Clark, but ‘‘the police refused to hand me any information’’.
Police also refused to answer questions from Stuff Circuit about whether they had received or paid for information from Thompson & Clark about Auckland Animal Action.