Po­lice link to PIs ‘prob­lem­atic’

The Southland Times - - News - Paula Pen­fold and Eu­gene Bingham

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.

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