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Whistleblowing: The Vigilante Syndrome

‘Whistleblowing’ claims, or to give them their technical name, claims for a detriment under section 47B of the Employment Rights Act 1996 following the making of a protected disclosure, are more common than you might think.

In the mainstream media, as with most things legal, the act of ‘blowing the whistle’ is somewhat romanticised and to a large degree exalted, and perhaps rightly so. When the term is mentioned in casual conversation, most people’s minds jump to Robert Redford in ‘All the President’s Men’, Al Pacino in ‘Serpico’, or more latterly Edward Snowden. In any event the term elicits an almost instantaneous and uniform reaction that the person blowing the whistle is a crusader, a vigilante of sorts who from in their view is looking out for the interests of others.

Given that this act is more common than the average person would expect, it follows then that there could be a right and wrong way of embarking on a single-minded mission to bring down ‘the powers that be’.

The recent Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) case of Panayiotou v Kernaghan provides a solid illustration of the fact that one can be in the right over blowing the whistle, however still be in the wrong over the manner in which it was blown.

Mr Panayiotou was a police officer of the rank of Detective Sergeant and had made a number of protected disclosures relating to other officers’ treatment of victims. On investigation of the matter, his constabulary largely upheld his concerns.

For Mr Panayiotou however, being told he was in the right was insufficient, he wished to see actual changes implemented and continued to wage a campaign against his employer to right the perceived wrongs that he believed persisted. This made him extremely difficult to manage and took up the time of the Force to the extent that he became a “one man industry”.

Ultimately Mr Panayiotou was dismissed, ostensibly on the grounds that he had an incompatible business interest contrary the relevant Police Regulation, however also for the manner in which he pursued his complaints which were causing his employer significant frustration.

While it was found that Mr Panayiotou had indeed made protected disclosures, these were not the reason for his dismissal. His employment came to an end as a result of his never ending crusade to ‘clean up the department’ (ironically much like Pacino in Serpico) and also his employer’s escalating frustration and inconvenience at this fact.


The lesson to be taken away from Mr Panayiotou’s case and others like it from an employer’s perspective is that if disciplinary proceedings are instituted, it should be made abundantly clear that it is the manner of the disclosure, and not the disclosure itself, that is the act of misconduct.

The lesson for the employee is obviously to be mindful of the fashion and ferocity with which they persist in their workplace vigilantism.

If you are dealing with a protected disclosure and need advice and assistance on how to manage the process please do not heistate to contact me on 0113 350 4030 or samira.cakali@scesolicitors.co.uk for a free consultation. 

Please note that the information in this blog is to provide information of general interest in a summary manner and should not be construed as individual legal advice. Readers should consult with SCE Solicitors or other professional counsel before acting on the information contained here. 

Samira Cakali

Samira Cakali is a pragmatic and approachable solicitor advocate with extensive contentious and non-contentious experience in the fields of employment law as well as civil litigation, within a range of commercial businesses from SME’s to multinationals as well as senior executives.

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