Government use of spy firm unacceptable affront to democracy

18 December 2018, 12:57 UTC |

Amnesty International is extremely concerned to see the details of a report out today on the relationship between some government agencies and the private investigation firm Thompson and Clark. The State Services Comissioner Peter Hughes has identified "system wide failings" across the public service, as well as inappropriate relationships with public servants and the spying firm's staff. Several government agencies had been using the private investigators to spy on volunteers and activists. There were even indications of potential covert spying activity for a Crown court case.

“A free society must recognise and protect the right to political assembly and freedom of expression."

Annaliese Johnston, Policy and Advocacy Manager for Amnesty International New Zealand

Annaliese Johnston, Policy and Advocacy Manager for Amnesty International New Zealand, said today she was appalled to see that people who advocate on issues were seen as a threat by some in the public service. "A free society must recognise and protect the right to political assembly and freedom of expression. We would expect the state to value people's freedom to advocate and mobilise on issues they care about, whether environmental, animal rights or historic cases of sexual abuse. That the state seems to have instead been using investigators to spy on their own citizens and treating them as threats is very troubling."

Ms Johnston said she supported the comments from Commissioner Hughes that the actions of some people in the public service were unacceptable, but said more would need to be done to repair the damage, address the failings and reassure New Zealanders that the state service was now acting appropriately.