Editor’s comment: Mark should have been listened to

Mark Clewes with his huge stack of documents. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Mark Clewes with his huge stack of documents. Picture: Nigel Sutton - Credit: Nigel Sutton

The Gazette’s revelations today about the John Howard Centre make extremely uncomfortable reading.

The topic of whistleblowing is rightly high on the agenda at the moment: without people who are willing to speak out when they see danger and injustice, avoidable catastrophes will happen. In the last few weeks it was confirmed NHS whistleblowers would be compensated if it turned out they had been blacklisted for future employment. All this means whistleblowing is finally being given the protection and recognition it deserves, right?

Well... actually, no. Unfortunately there is no public interest defence for journalists and whistleblowers in the proposed Espionage Act, a consultation on which runs until Wednesday. The law would update the Official Secrets Act and would make it illegal not only to leak confidential information but also to obtain it. This should ring alarm bells far more widely than in the streets around the John Howard Centre, and I urge anyone who hears them to read up on the proposals and, if possible, contact their MP. You can find them under the title “Protection of Official Data” at the Law Commission’s website, lawcom.gov.uk.

What Mark Clewes saw at the John Howard Centre is blood-chilling. That a man who would become a murderer was wandering the streets of London committing petty crime is scary enough, but the point of this story is that Mark’s repeated attempts to blow the whistle could have stopped it happening. Instead of being listened to he was seemingly managed out of the organisation. We have heard good things in the last year about new working practices at the centre, but these came after a series of high-profile absconders. However late in the day it may be, the Gazette’s revelations mean health bosses must revisit Mark’s allegations.