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HM Prison Service Whistleblower Case Study

01 January 2009

Slater and Gordon Lawyers (formerly Russell, Jones and Walker) successfully represented a senior prison officer (the claimant) with over 15 years service, in a whistleblowing constructive dismissal case against HM Prison Service which was fought on both liability and remedy, at two full hearings. 

Carol Lingard saw her promising 15-year career as a prison officer destroyed when she reported serious concerns of prisoners being bullied and intimidated to her managers.

The only senior officer selected for fast-track governor assessment in Wakefield maximum security prison, where Harold Shipman and Ian Huntley were in custody, Mrs Lingard was 32 weeks pregnant at the time, having suffered two previous miscarriages.

Within 48 hours, word spread that Mrs Lingard “was a grass” and she suddenly found herself the subject of intimidation and discrimination at work. Prison gates were slammed in her face and her workplace, where there were only a handful of other female staff, became a hostile and threatening environment. 

Ostracised and clearly suffering from substantial stress, Mrs Lingard was offered no support by HM Prison Service, when all she had done was report serious wrongdoing with integrity and strictly in line with procedure.

Without even interviewing Mrs Lingard, the prison concluded there was nothing in the allegations. Despite approaching the prison governor, her complaint went no further.  Instead, key documents were stated to be missing and Mrs Lingard was herself accused of disloyalty and recommended for discipline. 

In an extraordinarily damning judgment, the employment tribunal condemned senior management of HM prison service for their "collective failures" and "seriously flawed judgement". 

The tribunal found that the prison governor was “dripping with hostility” towards Mrs Lingard and that his claim to be unaware of victimisation towards prison whistleblowers was “simply not credible”. 

An award of £477,000 compensation was made, believed to be the highest ever public sector payout in a whistleblowing claim. Costs were also paid by HM Prison Service.

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