Thursday, August 25, 2011
Could certain Irish Red Cross board members face criminal prosecution under the new Criminal Justice Act 2011?
The Irish Times has reported that legislation aimed at strengthening Garda (Irish police) powers when investigating white-collar crime and legally protecting those who turn whistleblower came into operation earlier this month.
According to the newspaper “a key part of the white collar crime provisions in the Criminal Justice Act 2011 creates a new offence of failing to report business and corporate-related crimes, which is punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to five years”.
Of particular note in relation to the Irish Red Cross is the section in the Irish Times article which states “An employer who penalises a whistleblower in any way can face up to two years in prison and the whistleblower can sue for damages”.
Only time will tell whether organisations such as the Irish Red Cross who have fired whistleblowers will have criminal prosecutions taken against them and if so whether individuals from those organisations will serve custodial sentences.
At the very least the legislation is to be welcomed and any protection afforded to whistleblowers who report wrongdoing in good faith, whether in the past or in the future, is a critically important step forward. For far too long employers have systematically and wilfully threatened, harassed and punished organisational whistleblowers. They have done so with complete impunity. That day is now over.
The first criminal prosecutions and jail sentences against individuals who have fired or targeted whistleblowers will send shock waves across Ireland but shock waves is exactly what is required. No organisation, whether private, public or charity is now above the law. All that remains to be seen over the coming months and years is which individuals and organisations are prosecuted under the new legislation and for how long those found guilty will serve in prison.
No doubt there are plenty of individuals out there who are having sleepless nights since Minister Alan Shatter brought this pioneering piece of legislation before the Irish Parliament and saw it successfully passed into law. The possible threat of criminal prosecution and a jail sentence will definitely cause insomnia even for the most brazen and shameless.
Minister Shatter said the Act was an important step in ensuring the white collar criminal would be vigorously pursued. “We must put an end to any hint of a culture that suggests that the white-collar criminal can act with impunity,” he said.
Under the Act, a person who has information that could help prevent a white collar crime or help the investigation of an offence committed is guilty of an offence unless they provide the information to the Garda. The information must be supplied “as soon as practicable”. Failure to supply the information, and to do so quickly, carries a jail term of up to five years on conviction.
Minister Alan Shatter, as well as having responsibility for passing the Criminal Justice Act 2011 also has statutory oversight of the Irish Red Cross.
Posted by Irish Red Cross Reformists at 7:16 AM