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Whistleblowing charity Protect welcomes Supreme Court decision on protection for judges

The Supreme Court has handed down a judgment today (October 16) which confirms judges are protected under whistleblowing provisions under the Employment Rights Act 1996, following a case brought by District Judge Claire Gilham.

District Judge, Claire Gilham, raised concerns in 2013 about the stresses and dangers faced by those working in the courts and the effects on justice and due process as a result of an under-resourced system. She claimed after she raised these concerns no action was taken and she was subjected to bullying and the stress of greater workloads. She argued in her legal case that she suffered detriments as a result of blowing the whistle.

Whistleblowing charity Protect intervened in the case and were represented by law firm Leigh Day. Protect has been campaigning for some time for the whistleblowing law, the Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA), to be extended to cover all individuals in the workplace.

Bob Matheson, Head of Advice & Advocacy at Protect, welcoming the news, said: “We were struck by the court’s observation that the government doesn’t have a plausible reason why our judges were denied the same right to call out wrongdoing as other workers, it just hadn’t put its mind to the issue. For too long, the burden of bringing our whistleblowing legislation up to date with the rest of the world has been placed on whistleblowers like Judge Gilham. To expect so much from those who have already spoken up on our behalf is unconscionable.

“Our most senior judiciary have firmly recognised the fundamental importance of whistleblowing rights for all of those in work and that the government must provide these rights in a consistent well-reasoned way.”

Protect has recently launched its campaign for a new Whistleblowing Bill to correct the fact that it has fallen behind many of our international counterparts. Protect will be calling on the government, civil society groups, and wider society, to seize the opportunity provided by this judgment to re-establish the UK as a world-leader in this area.

 Kiran Daurka, Partner and employment solicitor at Leigh Day, said: “Today’s judgment by the Supreme Court is a significant step forward in protection for whistle blowers and our client, Protect, believes that by extending whistleblowing protections to the judiciary it will make the justice system a safer place, allowing judges to raise their concerns without fear of being penalised as a result.

“Importantly, Lady Hale says that the government did not justify why judges were excluded from whistleblowing protections. She said that the government or Parliament had never considered protections for the judiciary and could not therefore explain why they should not be given the protections given to others.  In our view, similar observations can be made about other groups of office holders who have not yet been given express whistleblowing protections.”