The BBC punishes Journalist Whistleblowers Liz McClean and for whistleblowing on the Saville Abuse Stories.
John Cooper QC on the necessity of protection for the informant
At the end of last year, the Whistleblowing Commission, set up by a charity called Public Concern at Work, concluded that current legislation on whistleblowing was not working and that a new code of practice should be adopted in every workplace in the UK.
The same Report also suggested that Employment tribunal panel members should be given specialist training on whistleblowers and the courts and tribunals should be able to take non-compliance into account when considering cases before them.
In fact, it became clear to the Commission during their research that less than half of UK employees were aware of what the whistleblowing policy was in their particular workplace.
The problem of how we treat whistleblowers is one that affects crime as much as it does civil disciplines.
In fact, the protection of people who inform law enforcement authorities is vital, both in respect of the detection of crime and the preservation of public confidence to report it, safe in the knowledge that their vulnerabilities will be protected.
For “whistleblower” substitute “informant”, both performing the same vital function, without which the majority of crime would frankly remain undetected.
Indeed, whistleblowing on a matter which might begin as a civil matter, can obviously also lead to criminal lines of investigation.
With all this in mind it remains the fact that the way we treat whistleblowers is both shoddy as it is irresponsible.
To begin with, the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013, should be amended to cover a broader range of workers, including doctors, social workers, foster carers and volunteers. I have in mind the recent allegations relating to Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, LIBOR and the Jimmy Saville sex abuse cases.
There should also be specific provisions against the intimidation, overt or covert of whistleblowers and the blacklisting of those who seek to bring concerns to the appropriate authorities.
But perhaps, more importantly than all of this, we should be creating a sea change in attitude whereby employers and those in authority who seek to stifle and intimidate the whistleblower are treated with the same disapproval as those who are actually committing the wrong.
A good starting point would be for a specific offence to be crafted, akin to the jurisprudence anchoring offences of perverting the course of justice for individuals to cause to be withheld information or evidence which might have tended to establish illegality.
It is time that the zeal used to promote victims rights was harnessed for that of the whisleblower.
Professor John Cooper QC. 25 Bedford Row.
Consultant Editor CL&J. Twitter:
Named in The Times “Law 100”
There is only one thing I can say to JCQC’s Article I TOTALLY AGREE.
Whistleblowers lives would be much better if there was an Amendment to the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013. Whistleblowers have suffered losses of jobs, careers, houses, and worse to expose injustices. They deserve a break. The proposed Amendment would help them no end with the appropriate Enactment and Enforcement along with Policies and Procedures in all manner of organisational bodies from Corporations to Public Sector Bodies.
I hope they get it.