The other weekend I attended a retreat at Ampleforth Abbey, the Benedictine monastery near York, on the subject of ‘whistleblowers’. The idea came from Ian Foxley and Paul Moore.
Ian Foxley is a retired lieutenant colonel who was appointed by the MoD in 2010 to oversee a £2bn military communications project in Saudi Arabia. He had to flee after uncovering bribes paid to Saudi officials. Paul Moore was working at HBOS in 2004 as Head of Risk when he was dismissed for exposing their banking practices.
These two were joined by others from the NHS, the police, academic and legal worlds as well as business and banking. All of them had reported on wrongdoing in their workplace, only to find themselves bullied, shamed, then sacked. All had experienced havoc with their lives and serious mental distress
My own experience was as a trustee of War Child at the time when David Wilson ‘blew the whistle’. My fellow-trustees' reaction was the same as the MoD with Foxley and HBOS with Moore; ‘shoot the messenger'. David was sacked. I had no choice but to resign.
The Charity Commission acted in much the same way as the banks and other big organisations when faced with a whistleblower…rather than face the truth of the allegations, the issues are ignored and the ‘unruly element’ treated as toxic waste.
The Commission appointed a quorum of ‘professional trustees’ who had no real knowledge of the workings of this charity and its history and very little experience in charity work at all. There was no investigation despite questions in Parliament, Guardian editorials and the resignation of Pavarotti and the other patrons.
The charity survived the scandal but never returned to being the cutting-edge provider of essential services that it had been during the Bosnian war.
Everyone who came to Ampleforth had suffered mental health problems, financial disaster and exclusion from a further career in their area of professional competence. You will have to read 'Left Field' to find out what happened to David Wilson.
Whistleblowing is honest dissent not disloyal subversion, and should always be supported and applauded.
Ian Foxley has formed a support group at:
and read David's book