Leaks, Whistleblowing and the Public Interest
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Leaks, Whistleblowing and the Public Interest

The Law of Unauthorised Disclosures

Ashley Savage

This book is the first of its kind to provide an in-depth treatment of the law of unauthorised disclosures in the United Kingdom. Drawing upon extensive data obtained using freedom of information as a methodology and examples from comparative jurisdictions, the book considers the position of civil servants, employees of the security and intelligence services and service personnel in the armed forces. It considers the protections available, the consequences of leaking and a full assessment of the authorised alternatives.
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Chapter 8: Final observations

Ashley Savage


This book has identified that public interest disclosures can take many forms, from internal authorised disclosures to line managers or nominated officers, to external disclosures to oversight bodies and Members of Parliament, and unauthorised disclosures to journalists or via a blog or disclosure outlet. In all of the possible routes to disclosure, this book has identified deficiencies in both the mechanisms and legal protections available. It would appear that considerable work still needs to be done, first, to appreciate the value of Crown servant whistleblowers, and secondly, to acknowledge that the provision of authorised whistleblowing mechanisms can act as an alternative to the making of unauthorised disclosures. The purpose of this final chapter is to outline the key findings made in the preceding chapters and to identify the main suggestions for reform. Section I will focus on recommendations. Section II will provide a public interest framework based on UK common law jurisprudence. Chapter 2 identified that very few individuals are successfully prosecuted for offences under the Official Secrets Act 1989. This would appear to be similar to the position in the United States, where despite an increased effort to punish public servants for unauthorised disclosures the number of individuals being prosecuted remains relatively small. This chapter also suggested that the Official Secrets Act 1989 can serve as a barrier to individuals raising concerns about wrongdoing and malpractice. This is because several sections of the Act contain ‘damaging disclosure tests’ which are easily satisfied.

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