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Academics, journalists, whistleblowers, advocates and members of the public gathered at The Shard for an event hosted by Warwick Business School recently to discuss the hurdles they faced in their own journeys and recent trends in whistleblowing.

Protect’s Policy Officer, Laura Fatah, attended the event arranged by academics Marianna Fotaki and Iain Munro (www.whistleblowingimpact.com) with special guest Katharine Gun. Katharine was a translator based at British intelligence agency, GCHQ, who raised concerns in 2003 over a US plot to spy on the United Nations diplomats to ‘give the Americans an edge’ in their attempts to persuade the Council to go to war with Iraq.

Katharine Gun & Official Secrets

Gun knew this wasn’t right on three counts: GCHQ was being used for political means; the aim was to achieve war, and the diplomatic processes of the UN were being corrupted. She had also privately conducted her own research; and found “no reasonable reason” for the planned invasion. However – she was bound by the Official Secrets Act.

A lack of internal options lead Gun to conclude she had no option but to go against all her training and contact the media. Her whistleblowing has been made into the recent film ‘Official Secrets’.

Although the two states of the UK and the US eventually did go to war – they did so without approval of the UN, and amid international disapproval. Katharine Gun will be remembered for revealing to the world the underhand tactics of the US and UK.

Public Interest

The ‘public interest’ and who decides what this is was a key discussion point throughout the event at the Shard. Gun noted that the public interest defence, as used by the jury to successfully dismiss the case against Clive Ponting (who blew the whistle on the sinking of the Belgrano during the Falklands War), is no longer part of the Official Secrets Act. The public jury in that case clearly wanted to respect the societal value of the information that Ponting revealed, despite its confidential nature.

Modern Warfare

Mark Curtis, Editor of Declassified UK, spoke about the continued use of covert and potentially unlawful tactics the UK state still employs. He referred to cases when the UK is seen supporting the military operations of countries who have been found to be in breach of international law, such as the continued Saudi Arabian military assault of Yemen, the Israeli government’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land, and the US drone programme in Syria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Curtis highlights the particular difficulty whistleblowers face when raising concerns about the actions of their own government, as opposed to the vast majority of whistleblowers who raise concerns about malpractice or wrong doing in non-governmental institutions.

Trends in Whistleblowing 

Academic Iain Munro gave a brilliant summary of his recent work exploring trends in whistleblowing, and how the modern whistleblower is often supported by a network – without which they could not be effective. Members of the network include lawyers, journalists, confidants, advocates and translators. The use of technology was also discussed, and how best this can be used to securely share source material; technology has enabled the open source sharing of data with journalists and members of the global public. There is room for a genuine debate over the role of redaction in various forms of networked whistleblowing, but there is little doubt that it has played a huge role in stimulating public debate over issues including the legitimacy of recent wars, the 2008 financial crisis, offshore tax evasion and global mass surveillance.

Dave Lewis, of Middlesex University, explored the idea of pro-active protection for whistleblowers, including a protected status parallel to that of pregnant women in employment. However, this would naturally require the sacrifice of confidentiality. Ian Foxley spoke of his own ordeal, which is still on going, and how whistleblowers might learn ‘survival techniques’ from other human rights defenders. There was agreement that whistleblowers are faced with an overwhelming psychological toll and often need support.

It was a fascinating event with many interesting points put across by both whistleblowers and academics. Protect look forward to discussing the issues raised and our campaign for a new law for whistleblowing with all the delegates.

Resources:

 

By Laura Fatah


Protect is hosting a round table breakfast for the insurance sector at law firm Mayer Brown with Mike Carpenter (former Group Financial Crime Risk Director at Legal and General), Paul Boyle OBE (Chairman of Protect), and Chris Chapman (Compliance Partner at Mayer Brown).

Together, they will be discussing a number of topics around speak-up cultures, including the vital question of how to measure your programme’s effectiveness.

We would be delighted if you could attend and contribute your professional insight. Specific topics will include:

  • Measuring the effectiveness of whistleblowing
  • How to foster a positive speak-up culture
  • What the biggest challenges are to developing a whistleblowing programme
  • How to equip and train managers

If you are interested in attending this free round table,which takes place on March 4 between 830am-945.am at Mayer Brown’s Liverpool Street offices, please email Stella Sutcliffe, at stella@protect-advice.org.uk or call 20203 117 2520


Today we have launched a joint petition with WhistleblowersUK calling on the Government to review the law: It’s time for the UK to return to its place, leading global standards on whistleblowing.
Protect, along with WhistleblowersUK, and the public, call on this Government to deliver a whistleblowing law that offers real protection to whistleblowers, sets obligatory standards for employers and regulators to adhere to, and provides stronger enforcement when things go wrong. We support the APPG (All Party Parliamentary Group) for Whistleblowing and others in calling for an urgent review of the whistleblowing law, the Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA).
Protect’s Acting Chief Executive, Liz Gardiner, said, “Everyone who cares about reforming PIDA should sign this petition – the more support and voices we have calling for change, the better.”

Add your name to the petition below to tell the Government that whistleblowers deserve better:
http://chng.it/jxtHjCgHyC

Find out more about our campaign here: https://protect-advice.org.uk/protect-to-campaign-for-a-new-whistleblowing-law/


Financial service workers who have blown the whistle on workplace wrongdoing will be the focus of  new research by Protect and law firm Slater and Gordon. The research is to find out whether the FCA’s rules on whistleblowing have made a difference to whistleblowers’ experiences.

Head of Policy at Protect, Andrew Pepper-Parsons will work with Slater and Gordon to anonymously analyse 438 whistleblowing cases from financial service sector employees who called Protect’s advice line between 2017-19”.

The research, Silence in the City 2, updates the previous report, Silence in the City published with Slater and Gordon in 2013, which looked into records of over 300 workers from the financial services sector who called our Advice Line between 2007 -2012. A key finding of this study found workers’ lack of trust in their superiors may be well-founded: with 42% reported being dismissed after raising a concern once. This compared to 24% from across all industries.

Protect Head of Policy, Andrew Pepper-Parsons said, “With new FCA rules introduced in September 2016, we  want to see whether the efforts from the regulators has had a positive effect for whistleblowers. Do they trust internal mechanisms more?  Are their concerns now taken more seriously?  Has there been a robust response from firms around reports of victimisation?

He added, “Silence in the City 2 will allow us to compare – before and after – the implementation of FCA’s rules.  While employers tell us the culture has changed, we want to get the viewpoint from the whistleblowers in the sector.”

The landscape has changed considerably since 2012, with the regulators for the financial services, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Prudential Regulatory Authority (PRA), issuing whistleblowing rules for banks and, more recently to insurance companies on creating and then running whistleblowing arrangements.  These measures include the following aspects:

  • Written whistleblowing procedures, with an ability for staff to report directly to the FCA or PRA
  • Emended approach to preventing victimisation in the whistleblowing arrangements
  • The appointment of a whistleblowing champion

In 2018 the FCA carried out research looking at the implementation of their rules, where they found many firms had embedded training and whistleblowing policies but many struggled to demonstrate that in practice they were taking proactive action.

Clive Howard, senior principal employment lawyer at Slater and Gordon, who will be overseeing the project, said: “The original ‘Silence in the City’ report made for very bleak reading, with little support for the majority of whistleblowers in financial services who were at best ignored and at worst, victimised, disciplined or dismissed.

“There has been much positive change in the last seven years, but we know from our clients that problems do still exist. This updated report will be an important insight into what has changed for the better, what still needs to be done and hopefully a valuable learning tool to ensure those who are brave enough to raise concerns in such a sensitive and important sector as financial services are better protected in the future”.

Silence in the City 2 will be published in March.


Protect welcomes the launch of Dr Whitford MP’s private members bill – Public Interest Disclosure (Protection) Bill as an important step towards reforming the legal protection for whistleblowers.  Protect Acting Chief Executive, Liz Gardiner, said, “We’ve been calling for legislative reform as today’s whistleblowing law is out of date, so we are delighted that Dr Whitford has proposed her bill.  Her actions and the efforts of Baroness Kramer with her Office of the Whistleblower Bill, will put more pressure on the Government to reform whistleblowing laws in the UK”.

Dr Whitford’s bill proposes stronger enforcement of whistleblowing rights and a new independent body to set, monitor and enforce standards and to carry out its own investigations.

Protect have drafted their own proposals to replace the current whistleblowing legislation, the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA).

Liz Gardiner said, “We look forward to seeing the detailed content of Dr Whitford’s Bill and then to working with all those who are committed to reforming the whistleblowing legislation.”