Protecting public interest whistleblowers
Protecting public interest whistleblowers
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Latest: Nov. 17, 2023
Two strong statements on my caseRead more
My name is Josie Stewart. I need your help as I try to establish the legal right for civil servants to blow the whistle when the public interest requires it.
I worked at the Department for International Development (DfID) and then the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) for seven years. I was sacked last year after blowing the whistle on the truth about the UK's withdrawal from Afghanistan. You can read my story as published on the front page of The Guardian here, and evidence which I gave to Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Select Committee here.
Although FCDO’s handling of the Afghanistan evacuation was shameful, I had taken no action until false or at least misleading statements were made to undermine evidence given to Parliament.
It’s normal for civil servants not to feel comfortable with political direction or government incompetence – that’s part of the job. It’s not acceptable for them to be forced to be complicit in government lies.
Why support me?
I want to rebuild the sanctity of truth in government, and I want to help change the culture in government so that civil servants can speak truth to power. I believe that our democracy depends on it.
I also do not want any other civil servant to go through what I have been through. The civil service is packed full of brilliant, passionate, dedicated people, working for all our benefit.
There has to be a way for them to call out lies and falsehoods, when Parliament and the public are being misled, without losing their jobs. Something has to change.
What am I trying to achieve?
I am taking my case to tribunal because the Public Interest Disclosure Act is vague and there’s almost no precedent for cases like mine. This gives government more power to coerce silence in cases of wrongdoing. It should be clear that civil servants will be protected if, in exceptional circumstances, they make a reasonable decision that the public interest requires disclosure of information.
If I win, my case will clarify critically important whistleblower protection. If I lose, it will make the case for much-needed reform in our legislation so that civil servants can speak truth to power and call out government impropriety. It’s important either way.
What are the next steps in the case?
On 10 March the government filed an application to the court for my case to be heard under Rule 94 National Security proceedings. A decision on this will be taken at a preliminary hearing on 19 April 2023.
My full case is then due to be heard in September. There is much work to be done before then to prepare documentary and witness evidence.
Why am I raising money?
I am represented by an incredible team of lawyers. I have been supported by my barrister, Gavin Millar KC at Matrix Chambers, for over a year already, and he and my legal team at James and West Law have been working on a probono basis all this time. But, as the recent Rule 94 application demonstrates, the government's disproportionate use of powers of the state is increasing both the importance and the complexity of my case. It will drag on, and inevitably there is a limit to how much my legal team can do without at least being able to cover their costs.
Thank you so much.
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Nov. 17, 2023
Nov. 16, 2023
Judgement on parliamentary privilege
Today we received the court's ruling on Government's application to strike out core aspects of my case, on the grounds of parliamentary privilege. The hearing was public so hopefully the ruling will be published in due course. It raises some really important issues. In the meantime, here's our statement on it: https://jamesandwest.co.uk/government-restricting-whistleblowers/
Sept. 2, 2023
Full hearing postponed
The full hearing of my case, scheduled for 8-22 September, is not going ahead as planned.
We finally finished disclosure, and exchanged witness statements a couple of weeks ago.
We now find ourselves needing another preliminary hearing, for case management, on 7 September. Then 20-22 September is being held for a potential preliminary hearing, in public (those two words are important to me!), on issues of Parliamentary Privilege.
Both sides are expecting a view on these issues from Speaker's Counsel early next week.
My case keeps getting more complicated, but the issues do not become any less important.
And the amount of work my legal team are putting into all this, unpaid, is extraordinary. I am hugely in their debt. Any/all support I can offer them through this CrowdJustice appeal helps me to feel just a little better about this.
It also really helps me feel less alone, in this long fight.
Thank you so much
July 10, 2023
Update on dates
It’s been a while since I updated on my case, but things have not been quiet: endless back and forth and wrangling over disclosure has meant a huge amount of work for my lawyers. We were meant to have passed this stage months ago, but we’re having to fight to get the documentary evidence we need. At another preliminary hearing this morning, the judge ordered new dates: finalising further disclosure by 28 July, yet another preliminary hearing on 8 August (in case we still haven’t been given everything), witness statements by 11 August. Not much time at all then before the full hearing is scheduled to begin on 7 September, and we anticipate some important issues still might not have been worked out by then – so this morning there was talk of it all slipping to next year.
I’m finding all this harder than I ever thought possible: the amount of work, the complexity and, most of all, the emotional impact on me, and on my life. My gratitude to my lawyers for what they are doing, unpaid, is profound.
The issues of legal principle that we are continuing to uncover as we go are truly important. Whatever happens, there is going to be much to take from this case and to use: to help public service work better for us all.
To all of you for your support – thank you.
May 18, 2023
Judgement on Government's Rule 94 application
April 19, 2023
Today in court
Thank you for your continued support and interest in my case. Here is a quick update on what has happened since we reached our target.
I spent today in court listening to arguments in a preliminary hearing on my case. This hearing was listed in order to hear and decide upon Government's Rule 94 (national security proceedings) application. As the hearing was held in private, frustratingly I am not able to share anything that was said. A Guardian reporter whom I met at reception this morning, who had turned up to cover the hearing, was turned away.
What I can say is that we will receive the judge's decision and reasons on 18 May. Also that I found today intense, emotional, infuriating, and motivating. And that my legal team are truly incredible: it was a privilege to witness them at work.
Whatever I can raise through CrowdJustice will only ever be a tiny proportion of the true costs of this case. But there are truly important issues at stake, which my lawyers are fighting not only on my behalf. They deserve my and our support.
Huge thanks again for this. I will keep you updated on any further developments.
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