Whistleblowers perform a public service, bringing to light the activities of wrongdoers, often at great risk to themselves, their health, and their future careers. We wish to address the public outcry at the treatment of whistleblowers in the UK.
Every day, we hear reports in the press, action groups, and tales of the desperate plight of people who have spoken out against the activities of law breakers, some even driven to suicide. For example,
- Violinist Frances Andrade committed suicide after giving evidence against the man who had sexually abused her. Her family accused police and CPS of letting her down.
- Families of Hillsborough victims were accused of lying by police chiefs. It took over 20 years of persistent campaigning in the face of establishment cover up before the truth was revealed.
- A report for the BBC in the wake of the Savile child abuse revelations describes the "strong undercurrent" of fear at the corporation, which prevented whistleblowers from coming forward for over forty years.
- A former director of the Care Quality Commission reported "I am tainted because I spoke up" about failings in Mid Staffordshire Hospital and that when she tried to raise concerns internally "all I got was either denial or a sense that I was the problem".
- In our case, my wife Emily, a lawyer previously working for Nominet UK (a private company fulfilling a public purpose in providing .UK internet domain services), won a court action for disability discrimination, victimisation of a whistleblower and aggravated damages against her employers for their 'deception' and 'high-handed' and 'insulting' behaviour. Despite damning findings, the directors of Nominet remain in place, claim that the tribunal "broadly supported" the company, meanwhile government officials have failed to investigate live allegations of breaches of directors' duties.
Whistleblowing protection exists, but it is clearly failing the most vulnerable, and that's not in the public interest.
We petition the UK Government to make victimisation of whistleblowers a crime. We argue that current legislation is not enough to temper the behaviour of cynical employers and complacent officials. The law needs to be changed to protect whistleblowers from victimisation, with real-world repercussions for those who do, even custodial sentences for the worst offenders.
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