The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, Cheryl Gwyn, has released a report relating to the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS) practice of giving warnings to members of the public in order to disrupt or deter certain conduct.
Ms Gwyn says, “The fundamental question that I addressed in this report is how far the NZSIS can go in making statements designed to affect people’s behaviour given that, unlike the NZ Police, the NZSIS has no enforcement powers.
There is a very fine line between NZSIS offering a legitimate warning about a person’s behaviour and an illegitimate warning that crosses into impermissible state enforcement.
An overbearing warning statement could infringe people’s rights to fundamental freedoms such as freedom of expression, movement and association. The distinction will turn on the details of a particular case, but the onus is on the NZSIS to ensure its officers stay on the right side of the line. My recommendations are directed to that end.”
The issue of NZSIS warnings was first dealt with by the previous Inspector-General, Hon Andrew McGechan QC, in 2013. He considered a specific complaint about a particular type of formal warning. Ms Gwyn’s inquiry is wider.
Ms Gwyn says, “It is very satisfying to have completed and published this report because it relates to an area of operational practice that has direct public interest and can have considerable personal impact on individuals.
There had previously been uncertainty in terms of where the legal boundaries lay.
I have found that it is reasonably uncommon for the NZSIS to give warnings at all, but when they do so it is important that both the Service and members of the public are clear about people’s rights and the legal limitations on the NZSIS."
The full report is available here http://www.igis.govt.nz/publications/investigation-reports/(external link).
Media inquiries: Antony Byers 027 5438735 and Antony.Byers@justice.govt.nz