Former spy paid to infiltrate Greenpeace and unions

Former police informant Rob Gilchrist, pictured here in Hagley Park in 2008, has reached a secret settlement with police.
MARTIN HUNTER/FAIRFAX NZ

Former police informant Rob Gilchrist, pictured here in Hagley Park in 2008, has reached a secret settlement with police.

The former spy who sued police after his decade of deception was exposed is believed to have been awarded a settlement by his former employers.

Rob Gilchrist sued the police for $550,000 in 2013 alleging he had been hung out to dry by the police after infiltrating activists groups and trade unions.

Gilchrist's double life was finally revealed in December 2008, when his then-girlfriend Rochelle Rees, a Labour Party and animal rights activist found, incriminating emails to police while carrying out work on his computer. She installed spyware on his computer and mobile phone to confirm her suspicions.

 It is understood Gilchrist and the police have reached an agreement, though neither party was willing to comment on the resolution of a claim that reached the High Court.

"I'm not in a position to make any comment other than to say I no longer have any outstanding issues surrounding my time working for NZ Police," Gilchrist said, via email.

A former sickness beneficiary, Gilchrist says he was given the codename "Muldoon" when he was recruited in 1998 by the Christchurch police's Special Investigation Group.

In his claim Gilchrist said he was placed in dangerous situations without adequate safety mechanisms.

He had to work "alongside dangerous people who have been known to pour battery acid in things, threaten people, make and throw paint bombs, undertake bomb hoaxes, send razor blades to people, lace food with drugs, commit arsons, burglary, assaults and wilful damage."

There were occasions, Gilchrist said, where members of activist groups threatened him with a knife, saying they were going to "cut his throat" because they thought he was working undercover for the police.   

He sought $300,000 for lost income, $100,000 for factors such as distress and humiliation; $150,000 in aggravated damages plus extra costs to cover medical expenses, relocation, re-establishment and re-training.

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Rees lived with Gilchrist for a year and then carried out a long distance relationship from Auckland, and she still maintains contact with her former boyfriend.

Although she was betrayed by Gilchrist, Rees said some sympathy for her former partner.

"I felt police acted unethically towards me, my friends and Rob," she said on Saturday.

"The person [spy] immerses their life into it and they end up with loyalties divided between police and the people they are spying on."

Rees said she believed police continued to plant spies in activist groups.

"It has got little to do with any crime. We know from Rob it wasn't about gathering evidence to prosecute a crime. It was about gathering intelligence."

Now is his late-40s, Gilchrist says he infiltrated activist groups as diverse as Greenpeace and the Vegan Balaclava Pixies.

He was also encouraged to monitor the activities of the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU), Maritime Union and Council of Trade Unions.

Labour leader and former EPMU leader Andrew Little said he was extremely disappointed if police were spying on unions and protest groups.

"If it is still happening it would be a complete waste of time and resources."

Little could not recall Gilchrist from his time heading the EPMU.

"I can't imagine what we would have been doing to attract that sort of attention. We were not the sort of organisation that did suspicious things."

Gilchrist was reportedly paid $600 per week, plus expenses. Police paid his airfares, including trips to Australia, and instructed him not to pay tax.

Once exposed Gilchrist said he had been threatened, suffered depression and struggled to find work. He is still in Christchurch.

Under figures released by the police, Between August 2010 and May this year the police paid out $645,996 to cover personal grievances taken by 61 staff.

From July 2010 to May 2015 $2,491,751.05 was shared by 78 members of the public who successfully sought compensation from the police.

In a statement, police said: "Police are constrained in responding to your questions for legal reasons."

It is not known when the settlement was reached and whether Gilchrist was still considered an employee of the police.

 - Sunday Star Times

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