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My partner was spying on me for the police

Rob Gilchrist, paid by the New Zealand police for 10 years to spy on activists

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robert99 robert99 Sweden Posts: 1360
1 27 Mar 2018
If you're active, you're being watched - don't be naive people!

I began a relationship with Rob Gilchrist in 2007, after campaigning with him on animal rights issues for many years. He was well respected and trusted in New Zealand’s activist communities and I felt comfortable with him.

I work as a computer programmer, and in late 2008 Rob asked me to fix his computer as it was running slow.

It was then that I first saw Rob was forwarding internal group emails from climate change, animal rights and peace groups to a strange email address.

I had a sinking feeling. I felt like I knew then he was working for someone. But I didn’t know if it was a private investigator or the New Zealand police.

I started panicking and asked a friend to come over right away. We looked through his computer and found intelligence documents and questions from police.

What’s happening with climate change groups in Auckland, who’s been putting stickers on chickens in supermarket?

Who’s planning to hold stall at Grey Lynn festival?

I wanted to confront Rob, to yell and scream at him, but instead I went into activist mode.

I needed to find out what was going on, before it all got shut down. So I installed spyware on Rob’s phone and computer, gathering evidence that Rob had been paid by the New Zealand police for 10 years to spy on me and other activists.

Rob's intelligence reports included analysis of the personal motivations of individual activists, and information on the relationships between activists.

He was tasked with providing up-to-date addresses and photographs of activists. He was asked for details of who would be travelling to protests in Australia for APEC and where they would be staying. He was asked about fundraising activities for protest groups.

Rob's intelligence work involved subscribing to all the internal mailing lists for left-wing political or protest groups. He would forward these on to his handlers at a secret email address.

After having a falling out with some other activists, Rob started getting his information from me instead. I don’t know whether his feelings for me were genuine or not.

It’s bizarre to think someone can do this: treat people as your friends while maintaining this whole other hidden world where you are passing on information about them to the police. When Rob found out that I knew he alternated between apologising and acknowledging how hard it would be for me, and being angry I was ruining his life by going public with the story.

The New Zealand police settled an employment dispute with Rob, which he brought in 2013. Despite the police not publicly confirming or denying that Rob worked for them, the settlement acknowledged Rob was an employee and therefore they were responsible for his actions.

Police policy states that employees may not have "unequal" relationships with members of the public who disclose private information. Rob’s handlers were aware of our relationship and did nothing to stop it. Similar stories from the UK suggest that this practice may be a widespread police tactic rather than a one-off mistake.

Ten years on, I feel no closer to finding answers or seeking justice.

I fear that, like in the UK, my situation may not be a one-off. It is clear that the intention of the police was not to gather evidence to prosecute crimes. Rather, this was a long-term intelligence gathering operation targeting legally protected democratic activities. Rob’s handlers were attached to the Special Investigations Group who have at least 30 full-time police officers working on the surveillance of activists.

I now struggle to trust my own judgement in people. I’m constantly questioning in a way that I never did. I keep a lot more emotional distance than I used to. Before Rob I was an open person, but now I keep my guard up.

The police withheld information that was crucial to my decision to enter into a relationship with someone who I thought shared my values. I would like to know that this will not happen to anyone else.