Prison whistleblower to appear before Oireachtas committee

‘Penalisation’ of prison officer by Prison Service linked to protected disclosure

The prison service at first did not accept the officer was a whistleblower but it later changed its position.

The prison service at first did not accept the officer was a whistleblower but it later changed its position.

 

A prison officer who was penalised for making a protected disclosure is to give evidence to an Oireachtas Committee this week.

Last March, the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) directed the Irish Prison Service (IPS) to pay the officer €30,000 compensation for penalising him after he came forward with allegations of misuse of resources in one of the country’s prisons.

The officer, who has been with the prison service for 25 years, will appear before a closed session of the Public Accounts Committee on Thursday. The committee is currently in the process of examining the efficacy of legislation designed to protect whistleblowers.

In its ruling last March, the commission described the incident involving the officer as “extremely serious”.

His most serious complaint related to a notification he received from gardaí that he and his wife were being filmed in suspicious circumstances while in public.

He alerted his employers, who began an investigation. This investigation later concluded he was not at risk. However, he was not told about the conclusions for more than 14 months.

Effects on family

The withholding of the information was a form of penalisation linked to his protected disclosure, the commission ruled.

“I find the failure of management to inform the complainant, despite his very clear cogent description of the affects [sic] of the matter on his family constituted unfair treatment of the complainant as provided for in the definition of penalisation in section 3(1) (e). I conclude that there was a link to his protected disclosure,” its ruling stated.

When appearing before the commission, the prison service at first did not accept the officer was a whistleblower but it later changed its position.

A previous review of the officer’s case by retired judge William Early also found the officer was penalised for making a protected disclosure. Judge Early said he was also “isolated” within the prison service.

It is understood the officer alleges the prison service was slow to restore him to his normal salary after he was off work on extended sick leave. The service says this was a result of an administrative error which was rectified.

Representatives from the Irish Prison Service and the Department of Justice are also to be asked to appear before the committee in the coming weeks.