Threats against Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern involving police almost triple in three years

Newshub can reveal the annual number of threats against Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has almost tripled in three years. 

It comes as police confirm they are still searching for an anti-mandate protester charged with threatening to kill the Prime Minister in March.

The anti-mandate protest at Parliament earlier this year was a confronting display of anti-establishment fury and brazen disrespect for the Prime Minister, with one placard comparing her to Adolf Hitler. 

Suze Wilson, a senior lecturer and leadership scholar at Massey University, has written about how Ardern is "one of the most reviled people in Aotearoa New Zealand, attracting vitriol that violates the bounds of normal, reasoned political debate".

Speaking to Newshub, Wilson said the "rise of consumption and engagement with conspiratorialist perspectives is driving how people perceive the Prime Minister". 

Newshub has obtained official information showing the annual number of threats against the Prime Minister involving police has nearly tripled in three years. 

There were 18 threats recorded in 2019, the following year it increased to 32, and last year police dealt with a chilling 50 threats against the Prime Minister. 

The official information shows anti-vaccination sentiment was a driving force. Opposition to the Government's firearms crackdown post-March 15 was another factor. 

"A lightning rod kind of issue was that of the vaccine mandate because it had real impacts on people in terms of their employment prospects," Prof Wilson told Newshub. 

Police said it was not possible to determine the motivation for many of the threats because they were simply "offensive, obscene or threatening words directed at the PM".

Police involvement ranged from visiting identified threat-makers, to giving warnings, or recording it in an official data log. It's only since 2018 that the data has been collected in a single system.

Anti-mandate protester Richard Sivell was charged in March with threatening to kill the Prime Minister. He appeared in a Tauranga court on April 4 but has since gone to ground.

Police have a court-ordered warrant to arrest Sivell but have told Newshub they are still searching for him. They say anyone with information on his whereabouts should contact them immediately. 

The Prime Minister's office doesn't comment on security measures or threats. Those issues are dealt with by the Diplomatic Protection Squad.

In her recent Harvard University speech, Ardern defended people's right to argue strongly, but without getting nasty. 

"If we don't find our ability to argue our corners - yes, with the passion and fire that conviction brings - but without the vitriol, hate and violence."

In March, Christchurch City Councillor Sara Templeton went public about an online harassment campaign against her. She told Newshub there's a common denominator behind many of the threats.

"That misogyny, that trying to put women back in their place and intimidate and stop them having their place at the decision-making table."