Minister Shatter gets Government approval to provide for whistleblower protections in the Criminal Justice Bill 2011

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Mr Alan Shatter T.D., today obtained Government approval to provide for whistleblower protection in the Criminal Justice Bill 2011.

The Criminal Justice Bill 2011, currently before the Dáil, will provide new procedures and powers to the Garda Síochána to speed up both current and future investigations into complex white collar crime. The Minister intends that the Bill will be enacted before the summer recess.

The Bill provides, in section 19, for a new offence of failing to provide information to the Gardaí in relation to complex white collar offences. As a counterbalance to this offence, the Minister is proposing to introduce strong legal protection for persons who disclose information as required by section 19. The Minister considers it important that persons who comply with the requirements of the Criminal Justice Bill 2011 must be protected against being dismissed from their employment or suffering penalisation in the workplace as a consequence of such compliance.

The provision of whistleblower protection generally is an important commitment in the Agreed Programme for Government. However, the Minister does not want to delay enactment of the Criminal Justice Bill 2011 pending the enactment of more comprehensive whistleblower protections generally. Accordingly, he has today obtained Government approval to provide for substantial whistleblower protections in the Criminal Justice Bill.

The Minister said "I am satisfied that there is a need to provide for whistleblower protection in the Criminal Justice Bill 2011. The protections will underpin the obligations being provided for in the Bill on persons to provide information to the Gardaí in relation to complex white collar crime. It is important that persons who provide this information will not be dismissed from their employment or suffer penalisation in the workplace as a result of their compliance with the requirements of the Bill.

The protections that I intend to provide are substantial and will provide for criminal penalties where an employee penalises a whistleblower, as well as easily-accessible civil law remedies for employees. An employee will be able to seek redress from a Rights Commissioner and ultimately from the Labour Court."

5 July 2011

Note to Editors:

Section 19 (Withholding information) of the Criminal Justice Bill 2011 provides as follows:

19.—(1) A person shall be guilty of an offence if he or she has information which he or she knows or believes might be of material assistance in—

(a) preventing the commission by any other person of a relevant offence, or

(b) securing the apprehension, prosecution or conviction of any other person for a relevant offence,

and fails without reasonable excuse to disclose that information as soon as it is practicable to do so to a member of the Garda Síochána.

(2) A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable—

(a) on summary conviction, to a class A fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or both, or

(b) on conviction on indictment, to a fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years or both.