Whistle Blowers

19th May 2016

Over the past number of days and weeks, there has been much discussion about Garda Whistle Blowers. The name of Sergeant Maurice McCabe has been exchanged with the former Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter, the former Garda Commissioner and other members of An Garda Síochána.

Two independent Commissions have now examined the disclosures made by Sergeant McCabe and have found that he was correct to make the disclosures and that they were worthy of whistle blowing.

This begs the question as to what is whistle blowing and who does it apply to?

Since the 15 July 2014, employees can benefit from the Protective Disclosures Act. This is commonly known as the Whistle Blower Legislation. It provides employees protection from penalisation by their employers if they make disclosures of wrongdoing. It is important to note that disclosures must be made in accordance with the provisions of the Act in order to benefit from protection.

There is a wide ranging definition of what constitutes wrongdoing, from criminal offences to mismanaging public funds, discrimination, negligence, mismanagement, breach of health and safety regulations, concealing information or destroying information.

Once a whistle blower becomes aware of information, they will need to substantiate their claim and be able to prove it. The motivation for making the disclosure is not relevant.

It is important to note also that there is also a legal obligation under Section 19 of the Criminal Justice Act 2011 regarding withholding information. Any information which is held by a person where they believe that it concerns a criminal act and where that person fails to act by way of reporting it to the relevant authorities, including An Garda Síochána, are of their own accord guilty of an offence which can be punishable by a term of imprisonment, not exceeding five years.

The mechanisms that now exist are very powerful for all employees. They also act as a deterrent to any employer who seeks to try and cover up misbehaviour and punish an employee for daring to speak about it or to disclose. The provisions of the Act are not widely known but over the course of time it will become very important.

For further details, please contact – https://www.odwyersolicitors.ie/contact/