Harrogate whistleblower backs call for tough reforms to protect everyone who has courage to speak up
BRITAIN needs a new Office for the Whistleblower to protect everyone who has the courage to speak out in the public interest, according to a Yorkshireman whose whistleblowing claim was backed by the US government.
Andrew Patrick, from Harrogate, said he supported the findings of a report from the All Party Parliamentary Group for Whistleblowing, which is calling for an urgent and radical overhaul of whistleblowing
Critics claim that the current legal and regulatory framework fails to protect whistleblowers, who frequently face financial ruin as the price for speaking out.
Last year, the law firm Constantine Cannon LLP announced a more than $900,000 settlement on behalf of Mr Patrick in a lawsuit against Pure Collection Ltd, a Harrogate-based e-retailer of luxury cashmere and apparel goods.
This lawsuit was one of the first to be brought by a UK whistleblower in which the US Government intervened and successfully resolved the whistleblower’s False Claims Act (FCA) allegations.
Mr Patrick was awarded 18 per cent of the total settlement. The defendants neither admitted nor denied liability.
Constantine Cannon has also supported the establishment of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Whistleblowing, which has published a report based on evidence provided by more than 400 people.
The group has said it wants to see an Office for the Whistleblower created to independently investigate complaints and issue penalties against corrupt companies and individuals.
The proposed office would also support people who speak out by offering counselling, free legal advice and job protection.
“The only thing that stops people is hard, expensive penalties and criminal charges,” said Mr Patrick.
“The system is not hard enough on the perpetrators.”
The APPG for Whistleblowing is also calling for a ban on non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) as a means to silence whistleblowers.
Mr Patrick said he agreed, adding; “You have to knock NDAs on the head.”
The report was also supported by Whistleblowers UK, which said the whistleblowing report’s recommendations will help to change the way that whistleblowing is regarded by society.
Stephen Kerr, the Conservative MP for Stirling who chairs the group, told the BBC that whistleblowers must be “treasured” as they are “the first line of defence against crime, corruption and cover-up”.
The Public Interest Disclosure Act protects workers from detrimental treatment or victimisation from their employer if, in the public interest, they blow the whistle on wrongdoing.
However, critics say the act has become outdated because it does not protect all citizens.
The group also wants the definition of whistleblowing to be amended to include any harmful violation of integrity and ethics, even when not criminal or illegal.
Mr Patrick also claims that creating US style rewards for UK whistleblowers would encourage more of them to come forward.
Mary Inman, Mr Patrick’s lawyer from Constantine Cannon, said in an interview with The Yorkshire Post last year : “Whistleblowers are vital watchdogs, guarding against frauds in the commercial and financial services sector.”
The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Whistleblowers was set up with the aim of providing stronger protection for whistleblowers.
The APPG promises to work to identify where the law adequately fails to protect whistleblowers.
It also plans to work with industry experts, whistleblowers, regulators and businesses, to recommend positive, effective and practical proposals for change.
The group said: “We are not only aiming to change the current legislation but also the culture and perception of whistleblowers through the work of this APPG.”