International Handbook on Whistleblowing Research
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International Handbook on Whistleblowing Research

Edited by A. J. Brown, David Lewis, Richard E. Moberly and Wim Vandekerckhove

In the modern age of institutions, whistleblowing is now established as one of the most important processes – if not the single most important process – by which governments and corporations are kept accountable to the societies they are meant to serve. This essential Handbook provides researchers and policy makers from around the world with a comprehensive overview of the state of our knowledge regarding this vital process. In addition to drawing from the last 30 years of progressively more systematic research into whistleblowing, it also provides cutting-edge analysis of the conceptual and practical challenges that researchers will want to confront in the next decade.
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Chapter 17: When it all goes bad: Criminal remedies

Maureen Spencer and John Spencer


Criminal law provides at best only partial protection to whistleblowers who are victimized for having spoken out. The measures that do exist are patchy and specific to particular situations. This chapter reviews criminal law provisions in a number of jurisdictions and considers how effective they have been in deterring and punishing the victimization of whistleblowers. One of the earliest British whistleblower protection measures drew on criminal law. In the late 19th century, John Hood, an employee of the Cambrian railway company for over 20 years, had given devastating evidence to a House of Commons Select Committee about hours of work endured by railway workers. He was promptly dismissed. The directors of the company were summoned to the Bar of the House and told, ‘A great principle has been infringed, the principle that evidence given before this house should be free and unrestrained’. The outcome was the Witnesses (Public Enquiries) Protection Act 1892, which is still in force today. The relevant section reads as follows: Every person who commits any of the following acts, that is to say who threatens, or in any way punishes, damnifies or injures or attempts to punish, damnify or injure any person having given evidence upon any enquiry or on account of the evidence which he has given upon any such an enquiry shall, unless such evidence was given in bad faith, be guilty of a misdemeanour and be liable on conviction thereof to a maximum penalty of £100, or to a maximum imprisonment of three months.

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