Whistleblower to Vexatious Correspondent
Experiences of a Medical Whistleblower in Great Britain
ABUSE OF POWER and PUNISHMENTS WITHOUT CRIMES
- - discussion should have preceded the
unappealable Decision of the Lord Chancellor. Better that, than to have put
themselves in a position where to back down would have been to lose
At the very least someone should have met with you before the
Decision was made to explain why, after months of delay, the LC
department was not happy. [David Nias]
- - if the argument had been put to you directly
and you'd have been
able to address the issue right at the outset , things might have
turned out entirely differently. I agree with David Nias's comments on
this. (Maurice Frankel, Director Campaign
for Freedom of Information )
Post Script April 2009
In quoting from selected correspondence again below, I have abbreviated each communication to its essence. The small print used for the correspondence section of the full paper (and the whole of the version on the SCP website) might have encouraged skipping instead of absorbing the cumulative negativity & resistances encountered, highlighted in the excerpts here.
For easier reading, those will be shortened with unmarked elisions from the sometimes long paragraphs
[Elide3: to shorten by omission of words without sacrifice of sense]
This update is intended as an easy "entry point" to my lengthy paper Whistleblower to Vexatious Correspondent www.scp08.co.uk , which has evolved over a whole decade during which the face of psychiatry in Britain, and its management, has been continually changing. But risks for doctors and health workers who speak out in our country have not lessened and whistleblowing for the necessary public good is still savagely punished:
Medical Whistleblowers are competent and
capable professionals who courageously risk their
livelihoods when they come forward in the name of
transparency and openness"
Janette Parker, Medical Whistleblower USA
- - one petty complaint put GP in disciplinary agony for seven years - -
The Times 17 April 2009
'Whistleblower' nurse struck off over Panorama film - -
The Times 17 April 2009
Whistleblowers should be cherished, not crucified
Barbara Ellen The Observer 19 April 2009 (2nd story in article)
My journalistic strategy to support arguments with hyperlinks to quotes from the current press was developed in this paper - newly, I believe? I have been interested, only this month, to come across a book Human Smoke, which is wholly built of verbatim quotes to develop, without comment, a telling account of the genesis of the 2nd World War and the holocaust.
My own comparatively trivial experience of victimisation in later professional life resulted from the fortuitous coming together of several circumstances, crucially flowing from the premature death of the univerally admired Chairman James Cooke, whose fatal illness had become manifest during a hearing at which his fellow panel members happened to be myself and my co-founder of the Members' Newsletter.
Subsequently it was downhill all the way...
Following the appointment of Judge Palmer (HP) as Mr Cooke's replacement, two hearings which led to my suspensions (and thereafter dismissal) were chaired respectively by
1. an experienced
President whose style tended to be laissez-faire; he did not intervene whilst the social worker (who had not supplied a usual Report) found herself beleaguered whilst trying to give evidence, but after she had made a complaint later, he failed to support his panel colleagues who had needed to question her rigorously, as subsequent events made clear.
the other hearing was chaired by a newer, inexperienced President, whose incompetence had led to undisguised embarrassment and exasperation on the part of fellow tribunal members...
The Whistleblower paper was compiled at first from a position of great ignorance about the place of Whistleblowing in public and employment life, and it drew upon the Internet to exemplify and generalise individual experience.
Naive then in the 1990s, one believed that 'whistleblowing' about bad practice had long become recognised as an acceptable response to encountering blatant unfairnesses in professional experience, after local remedies had proved insufficient to right wrongs.
Gradually, one discovered the all but certain fate in UK of professional and medical whistleblowers; that they are always repulsed and discredited, generally meet retaliation for their pains and often lose their jobs.
Whilst appreciating that complaining about a Judge was an extreme case, not to be embarked upon lightly, my degree of foolhardiness in doing so became inescapably apparent only very gradually.
This post-script to a paper which has met a more positive reception and dissemination abroad (USA and Australia) than at home, summarises what has been learnt in the light of a multiplicity of relevant disclosures in the media, and from the publications of an increasing international body of Whistleblowers organisations whose world-wide experiences are shared on the Internet.
Disclosures in the press during recent weeks have prompted revisiting this, my lengthy learning curve:
1) misbehaving judges deals with
a current groundbreaking Freedom of Information case, an attempt to force the names of misbehaving judges into the open; more than 170 members of the judiciary have been disciplined for misconduct in the last 10 years, but ministers and the judiciary have for years steadfastly fought to keep their identities quiet.
Was HP, the retired Judge who victimised me, one of those? His local notoriety as "the most frequently judicially-reviewed judge in his area" (personal communication) suggests that possibility.
The outcome of my complaints about him was never disclosed to me; instead the tables were overturned, the complainant becoming the defendant, savagely punished without ever a meeting, an appeal hearing or commonsense review of an anomalously unappealable Decision, never reconsidered despite repeated demands supported by legal opinion, a professional society (The Society of Clinical Psychiatrists) and my Member of Parliament.
2)Injunction against Whistleblower revelations The Guardian reports "outrage from MPs of all Parties about an injunction enforcing removal from its website of documents supplied by an insider Whistleblower, disclosing in detail the activities of a large department of Barclay's Bank setting up companies dedicated to avoiding millions of pounds in tax ..."
3)Reversals of unsafe convictions An increasing flood of very belated reversals of unsafe convictions, many flowing from DNA evidence, encourages one not to give up.
One recalls now incidents which, for discretion, were not recounted in earlier published papers about doctors and the Mental Health Review Tribunal.
Some of the retired judges expected deference they had been used to in their Courts and found the equality of tribunal members hard to stomach.
Judge HP, who had found presiding over hastily convened S2 assessment hearings problematic, was (in his more familiar context) so opposed to the removal of Home Office supervision of a restricted applicant, who had long enjoyed a model life back in the community, that he prolonged the decision making discussion inordinately, seeking to overturn the majority view reached and firmly maintained by myself and the lay member; a fortnight afterwards he found an opportunity to impose my second suspension...
A similar disagreement within a tribunal panel in earlier years failed to reach unanimity had another, equally notorious Judge so infuriated by a majority discharge decision against his own view that he made the rest of us leave the room whilst he drafted the Reasons for the Decision as required, and then drove off at high speed in temper...
My response to my second suspension was to lodge a formal complaint and determine not to resume sitting whilst HP remained Regional Chairman without, however, resigning my Appointment as Medical Member.
"Alice in Wonderland" stuff - institutionalised secrecy
There were inordinate delays in responding to my complaint; eventually the LCD said they'd been awaiting my permission for the Judge to see my letter of complaint, which I had assumed would be automatic...
Contrariwise, HP in turn said it had been up to the Lord Chancellor whether I might see what he'd written about me - and that after his own appointment was terminated he had shredded all his MHT papers... This is all "Alice in Wonderland" stuff.
Institutionalised secrecy, maintained against all reason in the context of purported Open Government, has been a running theme emerging in the development of my narrative throughout a decade.
In the correspondence, that over-riding consideration was sometimes disguised by the officials with a veneer of courtesy:
[March 1998] I am sorry for some delay whilst two branches of this office have been seeking comments so that the Lord Chancellor can give proper consideration to your complaint [of September 1997]
3 April 1998 HARB (Judicial Appointments Division 2) to PGW: I can confirm that the letter of complaint dated 25 September 1997 has now been sent to the Judge for his comments. The Lord Chancellor wishes to reply to you personally.
22 June 1998 - - I have been advised that until [i.e. whilst] the matter remains under consideration by the Lord Chancellor we may not invite you to sit as a member of the Mental Health Review Tribunal in any region. I apologise for misleading you.
June 1998 Lord Chancellor Irvine to PGW)DISMISSAL: - - it would not be appropriate for your appointment to continue - - if the Regional Chairman did suspend your appointment in a manner which amounted to termination, this would have been incorrect, as I alone have the power to terminate an appointment. However, in the circumstances, this would have made no difference - - ”
October 1998 PGW to LCD: I was never allowed to see the letters about myself, although I had warned repeatedly of likely inaccuracies and distortions in them.
December 1998 PGW to LCD: - - your numerous colleagues have all avoided risking engagement in genuine discussion time and again.
12 2 99 MK to PGW - - I have looked into the file of documents passed to me when I took over the Regional Chairmanship. Whilst you could make the offer of a meeting to the Lord Chancellor's Department, I understand that the Lord Chancellor himself will not reopen the matter. I would urge you to let the matter drop now.
3 99 PGW to MK re my personal file, which HP passed on to you - may I make formal application to see its contents?
3 99 MK to PGW - I do consider the file privileged and I am not prepared to allow anyone to see it
6 99 MK - - it is time to call an end to it
June 2000 DL L.Ch's Dept - - The Mental Health Review Tribunal did not have a complaints procedure prior to the appointment of the Regional Chairmen - - a formal complaints procedure has now been adopted. It will not, however, apply retrospectively.
October 2000 JK (Parliamentary Secretary, LCD) - - no part-time tribunal member who continues to meet the qualification for appointment can be removed or their appointment not renewed without the concurrence of the Lord Chief Justice - -
26 11 2004 MK to PGW The Complaints Procedure was drafted by me and two others [unidentified]. We were all categoric that this was a move forward for the MHRT and was not to be retrospective
MK herself was later suspended from her Regional Chairmanship and never re-instated, but her crucial "non-retrospective" clause in drawing up the terms of a first ever MHRT Complaints Procedure (upon which the Society of Clinical Psychiatrists had been denied an opportunity to comment in its draft stages) was never reviewed in the light of its functioning.
No statistics have been released about the actual functioning of that MHRT Complaints Procedure, not even confirmation whether any complaints from medical members had been received and processed since mine?
It is noteworthy, having regard to my MP's eventual abandonment as futile his representations on my behalf, that when in 2005 he had been Minister of State for Local Government, he had researched the cases of people who felt they had not been treated fairly by the Ombudsman. Of 25 who persevered and went for a judicial review every one failed, the judges upholding the Local Government Ombudsman’s
original decision in every single case! http://www.ombudsmanwatch.org/judicialreview.html
Thus are the dices loaded against wronged individuals.
It is hoped that these selected extracts from the voluminous correspondence will encourage readers to return to the fuller correspondence section in the main paper and respond to the issues raised.
It is hoped that these selected extracts from the voluminous correspondence will encourage readers to return to the fuller correspondence section in the main paper and to respond.
Further reading just a very few selected references`;-
Henik, E G. (2008) The Effects of Value Conflict and Emotions on Potential Whistle-Blowers
De Maria, W (1995) WHISTLEBLOWERS AND SECRECY: Freedom of the Press Conference, Bond University, 1995
McKoy, J. M. (2004) "Suspending a Physician without a Hearing"
Woolf, P. G. (2003) Openness Denied –
Government Secrecy? Justice of the Peace , Vol.167, No.38.
- - - - - (2003) Think
twice before you serve on a tribunal. Hospital Doctor, 17/04
Click on SCPNET Points of View for Dr Woolf's Editorials January 2005-May 2006, and near the bottom a section On Mental Health Review Tribunals with a dozen entries.
Conclusion of a consultant radiologist sacked
after reporting his discovery of thousands of unreported X-rays:
How do you blow the whistle without "putting the Trust into disrepute"?
My advice to anyone considering whistleblowing is, don't do it, because you will get dismissed !
Readers' Observations on this paper:
- - Your detailed article shows clearly and concisely that you were treated shabbily and there was, in fact, nowhere that your voice could be heard or your personal views considered, which would have eliminated the high-handed action that was unfairly adopted - - You have put a great deal of work into the exercise and I admire you for all your efforts - - (response by a highly respected MHRT President and Regional Chairman)
- - I admire your determination to continue to fight on. You are very able in that respect. Fighting to achieve justice is not always successful but is always necesary and worth the effort regardless of the outcome. (LFL Forensic Psychological Consultant)
- - Once a decision is made it is virtually impossible to get it changed. It was unjust not to have an open independent review.*
*More than that, it was outrageous in a supposedly civilized society ! [DN]
Medical Whistleblower (USA) - an organization dedicated to advocacy and emotional support for those who have bravely stepped forward to "Tell Truth to Power": http://www.opednews.com/articles/Support-Medical-Whistleblo-by-MedicalWhistleblow-080923-5.html
- - Radiologist awarded $3.9 million in wrongful termination suit - - sued the healthcare provider alleging that he was forced to quit because he complained about work conditions at the Hollywood hospital - -
a second phase of the trial will determine whether Martinucci should be awarded punitive damages. 9 Dec 2008: The Associated Press
Invitation to National Whistleblower Assembly March 8-11, 2009, Washington DC - "Starting today, every agency and department should know that this administration stands on the side not of those who seek to withhold information, but those who seek to make it known." (President Obama, January 20, 2009)
Truth Feeds (USA) This article "Whistleblower to vexatious correspondent" examines abuse of power, punishments without crimes, and the prevalent secrecy in some UK government departments. Questioning what proved to be an unappealable decision revealed that the Lord Chancellor has a statutory obligation to defend the judiciary. Withholding information remained axiomatic in dealings with his Department.
Suppression of dissent (Australia) - a site founded on the assumption that openness and dialogue should be fostered to challenge unaccountable power: "Whistleblower to vexatious correspondent" tells of Dr Woolf's experiences of a complaint backfiring against the complainer, with unjust suspensions converted to dismissal and loss of main employment, all without a proper meeting with an opportunity to voice his concerns freely. http://www.uow.edu.au/arts/sts/bmartin/dissent/documents/#health
© Society of Clinical Psychiatrists