On 17th January 2023, the industry regulator, the Bar Standards Board decided to hand down an order imposing a ban on a barrister preventing him from continuing to practise after evidence emerged
Senior Barrister Settles Whistleblowing Case With Foreign Office
In early July 2022 news surfaced of a barrister working for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, who had reached a comprise in her whistleblowing claim.
What Happened In The Case?
The Claimant made allegations against the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office regarding significant malpractice involving some members of the judiciary which she observed whilst being employed by the government department for around four years, since around 2008 and working primarily in the Balkan state of Kosovo. The Claimant had been in the important position of the international prosecutor for a group known as EULEX and heading up its financial crime section.
On a reading of the facts, everything appeared to have been progressing well for the barrister and she had had a successful four-year career in the position. However, in around 2012 the relationship seems to have begun to go downhill very quickly when she submitted her worries to her employer. Following this point, the Claimant alleged that there was a relationship between the allegations of corruption, the government department’s behaviour towards her and the eventual ending of her employment contract.
Examining what had occurred the Claimant considered her allegations to be minor. She alleged that she had experienced unprofessional behaviour from numerous colleagues such as bullying, intimidation and a warning concerning a minor traffic infringement. The Claimant expected to receive some support from her employer. However, the employer imposed a warning.
The year 2014 appears to have been a turning point when the FCDO made the decision to narrow its workforce. They collated a criteria with a scorecard which was monitored and approved by EULEX. When the criteria was applied the Claimant was ranked in the bottom four of the candidates. In fact she found herself in twenty-second position out of twenty-five listed colleagues. The Claimant disagreed with the application of this scoring criteria and believed it was unfair as it resulted in her relegation which was confirmed in a Notice of Withdrawal. If the Claimant was to regain her position she would need to be re-appointed by the EULEX organisation.
The Claimant sought re-selection by EULEX and was offered an interview. However, on attending it she observed the close relationship the interviewers had with those colleagues she had submitted allegations about in 2012. Another concerning issue promulgated by the barrister was her cynicism over the way the questions were put to her by the panel. Specifically, the factors which the Claimant were sceptical of were the apparent disregarding of her prosecution expertise.
In late 2014 the barrister’s employer made the decision to suspend her for the reason of disclosing her concerns to news outlets in the Balkan state. The Claimant refuted her employer’s allegations. However, she chose to communicate with some news organisation as she perceived her employer was disinterested in her concerns and abandoned her.
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office communicated clearly that the decision to settle the matter was without admission of any wrongdoing on its party.
Pages Turned…Lessons Learned?
Employers facing allegations of whistleblowing should follow the following strategy by:
- making it easy for colleagues to communicate their concerns
- listening to and taking seriously colleague worries
- avoid making employment decisions after allegations have been raised
- avoiding creating complex scoring criteria
- not giving the appearance of going through the motions in a re-appointment meeting
- strongly considering candidates based on their experience and
- making it easier for colleagues to understand why they have been de-selection.
This will go a long way down the road of reducing future whistleblowing scenarios as colleagues at all levels will feel more supported by the organisations employing them.
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THE ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN USING THE FOLLOWING SOURCES
 Webber, Ashleigh – ‘Whistleblowing lawyer awarded £423k by Foreign Office – 4th July 2022 –Personnel Today - Whistleblowing lawyer case: FCDO pays out £423k to Maria Bamieh (personneltoday.com)
 Rose, Neil – Barrister settles whistleblower claim against Foreign Office for £423k – 6th July 2022 – Personnel Today - Barrister settles whistleblower claim against Foreign Office for £423k - Legal Futures
 Maria Bamieh v EULEX Kosovo and Others: UKEAT/0268/16RN