WBUK talk, Houses of Parliament, Westminster 23rd June 2015
I was invited to speak at the White Flowers Whistleblower event in Committe Room 11 of the Houses of Parliament at 1.30 p.m. on Tuesday 23rd June 2015. I was, somewhat to my surprise, heckled during my speech and, unfortunately, the chair of the meeting decided that I was not to continue to the end.
Here is the full text of my speech.
Good afternoon and thank you for the opportunity to talk to you today. I’m very grateful to the White Flowers organisation and everybody else involved in organising this event, and to the MPs Jess Philips, John Mann and Sarah Champion for sponsoring the room and supporting the cause.
I’m Tom Lloyd a retired Chief Constable and I now volunteer with a few other colleagues in an organisation called Whistleblowers UK. We have a simple, if ambitious, vision for the future of this country which is an environment where whistleblowers feel confident that they can expose wrongdoing without fear of personal loss or detriment. And we want to play our part in achieving this by encouraging, supporting and protecting whistleblowers and to promote the need for changes to organisational practices, national policy decisions and the law.
Now, that is some task; but the reason we have set ourselves this task is because there are wrongdoings and crimes that could have been prevented, or if not prevented, properly investigated, if only somebody had come forward and spoken out. And, when you think about it, it seems really strange that people don’t automatically speak up as soon as they see something that’s wrong; it may be organised criminal abuse of children, financial malpractice, mistreatment of patients, wrongful arrest by a police officer or suppression of evidence, it could be anything – but people are often very reluctant to speak out because they fear the consequences if they do, or don’t believe that they will be taken seriously
We in WBUK have engaged over the last few years with hundreds of whistleblowers who have contacted us because they wanted to speak out or had spoken out – and suffered grievous consequences. They needed encouragement, support and protection, and we’ve tried to provide it. WE receive calls and emails and refer people to appropriate support and legal advice, in short we “hold hands” with whistleblowers as their story unfolds. Perhaps most importantly we believe them. Happily we have had some success, but also, sadly, there are many occasions when we have been powerless to help given the current unhelpful environment – which we intend to change. We are all only too aware of the failures that have led to the shocking levels of child abuse that have started to be exposed, and why those who must have known and can corroborate the survivors’ stories have still not come forward.
Whistleblowers usually face extreme hostility and severe personal loss and detriment across all sectors. They are ostracised and abused at work, accused of disloyalty, suffer false allegations of wrongdoing, are accused of mental instability and can actually suffer from that as a result of their treatment. They are often sacked, and are subjected to continued and extensive personal attack, taken before employment tribunals who are ill equipped to deal properly with exposure of criminal activity. There are also trumped up allegations made by vindictive employers that can lead to whistleblowers being barred from ever working again in their chosen profession.
Financial hardship can lead to people losing their homes, their dignity and, sadly, sometimes their families or even their lives.
Recently we have noticed that there seems to be a trend towards malicious prosecutions as a way to silence or gag whistleblowers, to prevent them from exposing the truth of the evil of what is really happening.
Now this cannot be right.
We in Whistleblowers UK are working as hard as we can to work with whistleblowers to help them and to encourage others to come forward. But it’s not just about each individual case; it’s about changing the culture in all organisations, indeed in the whole of society, so that people can feel confident to speak up.
Why? Not only is it morally right that we should all be able to speak out without fear of detriment but also because it is clear that whistleblowers are one of the most effective ways of exposing and preventing wrong-doing. They have unique inside knowledge and access to crucial evidence. And that evidence will be much more compelling, and effective in securing convictions in CSA cases for example, if the whistle blowing happened at the point that child abuse was suspected, not years down the line when the evidence is inevitably weaker.
We strongly believe that whistleblowers can help prevent and, should offences be committed, successfully prosecute offenders for child abuse. We must do all we can to encourage people to speak out now.
Statutory guidance and the Public Interest Disclosure Act have been repeatedly exposed as failing both victims of abuse and the whistleblowers – who become a second tier of victims. We call for new legislation that will remove the barriers to speaking out, that will prevent harassment of whistleblowers and compensates them should that be appropriate. Abuse, dismissal and attempts to silence whistleblowers should be a matter for the criminal courts not employment tribunals.
We envisage a national Office of the Whistleblower dedicated to encouraging, supporting and protecting whistleblowers so that we can all live in a world where our natural instincts to speak out against evil are not punished but rewarded and celebrated.