A whistleblowing policy drafted for the judicial system has come under criticism for being drawn up in secret, and which will gag judges – not encourage them to speak up over wrongdoing.
District Judge Claire Gilham, who won her Supreme Court Case in 2019 to give whistleblowing protection rights for the judiciary, (Protect intervened in the case) spoke out about the policy in The Times.
She warned that the policy instead of encouraging judges to speak out, may have “a freezing effect on the freedom of speech of the judiciary, with serious implications for the public interest”.
A spokesperson from Protect said: “It is always troubling for a whistleblowing policy to be drawn up in ‘secret’ – whistleblowing is about encouraging transparency. A whistleblowing policy will be all the more effective if done in wider consultation with junior judiciary members and past whistleblowers – they are particularly well placed to understand from the inside what works and what does not. Rather than excluding district judge, Claire Gilham, who fought to whistleblowing protection rights for judges, we would recommend the MoJ seeks her input.
Any policy should also actively encourage speaking up and avoid any unnecessarily threatening language – warning of misconduct issues for raising a concern outside of prescribed routes, i.e. with the media for example. The UK whistleblowing law, the Public Interest Disclosure Act provides specifically for disclosures with the media, campaign groups, on social media or with political parties in some circumstances.
Getting the whistleblowing policy right is a crucial step in ensuring whistleblowing is handled properly. At Protect, we have unparalleled insight and experience and can help an organisation get whistleblowing right. We’d be very happy to work with the Judiciary in helping them get it right.”