Massive win for nuclear whistleblower Alison McDermott against Sellafield for re-arguing the tribunal decision by employment judge Lancaster

The Sellafield site

First hurdle over clearing the way for a two day hearing in January to decide on whether the 13 grounds mean the ruling is overturned

An employment appeal judge has ruled that the decision by Judge Philip Lancaster dismissing whistleblower Alison McDermott’s case against Sellafield and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority can be challenged now on no fewer than 13 grounds.

This extraordinary ruling on Friday in London by Employment Judge Tucker took less than 10 minutes to grant after she read the submission by Andrew Allen, KC, Alison’s counsel , means practically everything Judge Lancaster decided is open to challenge at an Employment Appeal Tribunal hearing in January. She decided she did not need to hear oral submission from Andrew Allen.

Alison McDermott; Pic credit BBC

In an earlier particularly harsh decision Judge Lancaster had decided that she wasn’t even a whistleblower, for producing, at Sellafield’s request, a damning report revealing serious issues in the HR function including allegations of bullying and harassment. Prior to this Alison had raised repeated concerns about racism, homophobic and foul language and a workforce too frightened to complain to senior management there.

Despite admitting that some of the concerns Alison raised were: ‘very offensive and concerning ” the judge ruled: “The Claimant has not, on the facts, established any alleged disclosure which is properly capable of amounting to a protected qualifying disclosure or the doing of a protected act, or that there is any causal link between what she actually said or wrote.”

It is worth providing a brief recap of what Sellafield and the NDA have done to Alison.  She spoke out repeatedly about serious abuses of employees, including abject failures within the HR department, when the HR Director, Heather Roberts dismissed her overnight, allegedly for financial reasons. But when Alison started litigation, Sellafield changed its tune and Ms Roberts said she had had concerns about her performance and had only mentioned financial reasons to be kind. 

Sellafield then dragged out litigation for three years before making a last-minute offer of £160,000. When they realised the carrot hadn’t worked, they decided to go on the attack and subjected her to a brutalising cross-examination in which her character and competence were repeatedly vilified until she finally broke down on the witness stand.   But even then, they weren’t finished with her.  As soon as Judge Lancaster ruled in their favour, they lost no time pursuing her for costs   And all of this will have a hugely chilling effect on their 11,000 nuclear workforce.  

Judge Lancaster claims he concentrates on anti-discrimination cases

Judge Lancaster, who says he specialises in anti-discrimination cases, went on to support Sellafield’s allegation of “underperformance” describing the report as ” questionable and insubstantial ” and without ” meaningful analysis”. Judge Lancaster completely ignored that management consultants PwC ruled that the HR function was not fit for purpose some three months later.

By then Heather Roberts, then the HR director at Sellafield, had already sacked her on the spot and immediately buried the damning report and admitted to lying about the reasons.  Despite knowing that Alison had become so ill and had no income, the judge made a costs order against her and allowed Sellafield and the NDA to put in a claim for £40,000 costs against her.

Now Judge Lancaster’s own judgement will be in the firing line in January when an appeal tribunal examines 13 arguable grounds of appeal. In a skeleton argument, citing a previous judgement, Andrew Allen, KC, finds a plethora of errors in law which led to Judge Lancaster’s bizarre judgement that she was not a whistleblower. One paragraph that encompasses this – citing no fewer that eight grounds that the case could be challenged gives a flavour of this.

“It is an error of law for a tribunal to fail to give adequate reasons for its decisions so as to enable the losing party to understand why she has lost. The EAT has already decided that it is arguable that this tribunal have erred in law: in applying s27 EqA – in failing to recognise protected acts; in applying s109(2) EqA in identifying the correct relationship in dealing with agency; in failing to engage with the Claimant’s submissions in particular on adverse inferences, protected acts and agency; in failing to take a step back and look at the totality of the evidence; in failing to be Meek compliant; in failing to ensure compliance with the overriding objective to ensure that the parties are on an equal footing; in failing to ensure that the hearing was heard in public in failing to recognise that the Claimant has advanced argument on the facts and the law in relation to the agency point; and in failing to comply with the overriding objective in dealing with the case fairly and justly.”

Andrew Allen KC

Andrew Allen, KC also argued that the tribunal had failed to follow the principles of the law in pursuing costs again Alison which says should only be made in exceptional circumstances especially in the case of whistleblowing cases.

This case and Sellafield’s response is attracting wider attention. It is not just the UK press. On Friday, representatives of a prominent Norwegian environmental campaign group, Neptune Networks flew in from Oslo to attend the hearing.  

Norwegian national press to follow the case

Neptune Networks has been raising serious concerns about Sellafield for the last two decades and confirmed that they will be attending the main hearing on 17 and 18 January 2020 and they will be accompanied by members of the national Norwegian press.

Finally a little note about Judge Lancaster. He is also the chair of directors of a Christian charity, Spacious Spaces, based in Leeds, which offers treatment programmes for alcoholics and drug takers. Here he is known simply as ” Phil”. This is the note about him on their site.

“Phil Lancaster practised as a barrister, specialising in criminal cases. He is now an Employment Judge dealing primarily with the anti-discrimination laws. He is a member of St George’s Church, where he has been a church warden and served on the parochial church council. He is married with fairly recently grown-up children and a large collection of Bob Dylan cds.”

I find it a little perplexing given his Christian background and commitment to treating drug addicts and alcoholics that he is not concerned about what Alison McDermott exposed about the pressures on staff inside Sellafield who are working in the most hazardous nuclear site in Europe.  I also find it deeply disturbing that he made snide and pejorative comments about Alison both during the ET hearing and in the merits and cost judgment. 

An example of this is the nasty insinuations he made about Alison when he accused her in the costs judgment of bringing a claim ‘to advance her career across the nuclear sector’ even though she had turned down a £160,000 to bring her claim to court.   He also seems oblivious of the huge strain and damage whistleblowers face to their careers when they blow the whistle.   If his judgement is found to be so badly wrong by the Employment Appeal Tribunal, there must be some serious questions about justice in the employment tribunal system.

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How Sellafield and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority misuse taxpayer’s money to hound a whistleblower

Alison Mc Dermott, whistleblower

One of the biggest tactics to frighten whistleblowers by big companies and health trusts is to threaten whistleblowers exposing malpractice, corruption and discrimination and say they have to pay hundreds of thousands of pounds in costs unless they settle or drop their claims for detriment at employment tribunals.

The tactic regularly used by firms and health trusts in employment tribunal cases is based on a lie. The maximum an employment tribunal can order costs is £20,000 per respondent. Only if it goes to the High Court can a firm or health trust demand such eye-watering sums.

However Sellafield, the NDA and the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy ministry have decided that it is worth pursuing whistleblower Alison McDermott, a consultant formerly employed by Sellafield for the maximum £40,000 shared between the NDA and Sellafield. They know she has no income and they have even tried to close down her crowdfunding site to raise money to defend herself against their costs claim.

Her whistleblower site is here and you can donate to bring the sum up to £10,000 within the next 14 days otherwise she loses the lot.

Damning report revealed relentless bullying at Sellafield

Alison was called in by Sellafield’s human resources department to investigate their working practices and produced a damning report revealing employees were subjected to appalling racist, sexist and homophobic abuse and relentless bullying. Only 11 per cent felt they could raise issues with the company without reprisals and four percent thought they got honest answers. Faced with such a damning account Sellafield sacked her rather than change its ways.

This led to an employment tribunal case which not only found in favour of Sellafield and the NDA but saw her publicly denigrated by Sellafield’s barrister, Deshpal Panesar KC, who accused her of ‘acting out of revenge’  of being ‘intent on ruining careers’ of being ‘self-absorbed’ and ‘a woman clearly in pursuit of a windfall.’ 

The NDA tried to buy her off with a £160,000 pay out in return for her silence on what she had found at Sellafield. She refused to accept – arguing among other points that such a culture permeating a nuclear facility was dangerous given serious issues of health and safety. She tried to raise this with BEIS but they refused to meet with her having signed off the £160,000 settlement.

Now a judge has ruled that she is entitled to appeal on six different grounds – and she has secured Andrew Allen, KC, a lawyer who represented Dr Chris Day, in his recent whistleblowing tribunal case against Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust, to represent her.

But she has also to face a costs hearing. So how is this being pursued by the NDA and Sellafield.


I put in two freedom of information requests to Sellafield and the NDA on how much they had spent and the revelations were very interesting. Sellafield has already spent £5640.16 on external advice plus using its own staff to pursue Alison. The NDA spent £7524.58 on external legal advice and an unknown sum on staff time to pursue her. So before we even get to court over £13,000 has been spent using taxpayers money. Furthermore the NDA according to an internal memo spent money on lawyers trying to close down her whistleblowing appeal with no success. The total cost spent by both organisations fighting Alison has exceeded £500,000 of taxpayers money.

The replies also revealed that the boards of both organisations including the Chief executive officer of the NDA , David Peattie ,were ” apprised” of the decision meaning that it reached board level. BEIS was also informed and approved the costs case but declined to comment about it because of current legal proceedings. What on earth are the boards of these organisations spending their time on this when they have much serious work to do on issues like nuclear safety and disposing of old nuclear power stations.

Now when this gets to a tribunal there will be a two day hearing and according to internal NDA documents it was paying over £5500 a day for top notch barristers. It is reasonable to assume so was Sellafield. This means the hearing will cost another £22,000 as they will be represented separately.

So altogether we are taking about £35,000 as a minimum ( excluding staff time) to recover a maximum of £40,000. That is – if they win. And even if they win most judges rarely award the full sum if it is a litigant in person. It is more likely to be £5000. If they lose this is taxpayers’ money being thrown down the drain.

If this was a commercial company I very much doubt it would past muster as a ” business case”. It is only because the boards of these organisations have unlimited access to taxpayers money that they can pursue this.

And to my mind this is only being pursued to hound a whistleblower who has produced some very damning information about life in Sellafield. This has called Sellafield’s reputation into question and they don’t like it, hence this vindictive approach.

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New campaign: Time to change a prejudicial and unfair employment tribunal system

Sir Keith Lindblom Senior President of the Tribunals Pic credit:

This week sees the launch of a campaign by doctors, whistleblowers, journalists and members of the public to seek a big change in the way the employment tribunal system works.

It follows a series of judgements against whistleblowers – some have been carried on this blog- where the judgement itself ignores or twists facts and where the whistleblower – often but not always a litigant in person – has to defend himself or herself against big battalion lawyers brought in by employers.

Many of the cases involve issues like hospital and patient safety, bullying, harassment, racial and sex discrimination where a claimant is sacked for suggesting anything has gone wrong rather than the issue being sorted.

Worse some of most egregious offenders are in the public sector. They are the hospital and trust bosses, the management of Sellafield and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, and Greater Manchester Police to name a few current examples. They spend millions of pounds on expensive barristers and solicitors fees all funded with your money – the taxpayer – rather than using your money to correct the problem.

They then go and try and bankrupt whistleblowers or drive them into abandoning their case by putting in six figure cost claims against them. Or use taxpayer’s money to give them six figure pay offs in return for a non disclosure agreement.

Judge Barry Clarke, President of the Employment Tribunals of England and Wales

All this is presided over by the judges who have a whip hand – they don’t record the proceedings or keep transcripts. They keep notes but they are for their private use and you cannot get them -even through a subject access request.

The only public record is their judgement – and if it misses out some of the evidence – there is no record that the evidence was ever given to the tribunal. And you cannot make a recording of the hearing – that is a criminal offence. Employers with more resources can employ their own note-takers – very useful if it goes to appeal and their lawyers won’t share their transcripts with the claimant.

The only safeguard is mainstream media which might report the hearing – though even then some employers try to get some of their evidence held in camera. But with the parlous state of the media , especially local media, journalists are rarely there.

Judge Shona Simon; President of the Scottish Employment Service

That is why the campaign has begun with a letter to the three top employment judges in the UK – Sir Keith Lindblom; Judge Barry Clarke and Judge Shona Simon, seeking a fundamental change to facilitate open justice- that transcripts of the proceedings of employment tribunals should be kept. The letter argues that the principle of a fair trial – enshrined by the European Court of Human Rights – cannot take place if only one side can afford to keep a record. It gives the employer a permanent advantage.

The decision to write the letter was taken at a meeting of Justice for Patients and Doctors – but supported by other whistleblowers who are not in the NHS.

With the help of my journalist colleague Philip Whiteley, Sellafield whistleblower Alison McDermott, cardiologist whistleblower Usha Prasad and junior doctor whistleblower Dr Chris Day,, the letter was circulated on social media.

Within just seven days we had backing from well over 300 people – from a former economic adviser to No Ten Downing Street, Sir Adam Ridley, 80 medical consultants, numerous GPs, nurses, teachers, to a former deputy groundsman at the Chelsea Pensioners hospital, a lorry driver, an actor, writer and a poet. This seems to suggest there is a wide ranging feeling that there is something wrong in the justice system.

This is the roll call of honour:

  1. Sir Adam Ridley former Downing Street adviser and economics adviser to Nigel Lawson and Sir Geoffrey Howe
  2. Jane Somerville, Emeritus Professor of Cardiology, Imperial College
  3. David E Ward, former cardiology consultant, St George’s Hospital, London
  4. Michael Byram Professor Emeritus University of Durham
  5. Dr Philip Howard MA G Dip Law LLM MA MD FRCP Consultant Physician and Gastroenterologist
  6. Prof Brendan T Barrett Dip Optom Bsc Psychol PhD MCOptom FAOI FHEA
  7. Gautam Appa Emeritus Professor of OR Dept of Management, LSE
  8. Dr Chris Day, Emergency Medicine Doctor A&E Agency
  9. Dr Usha Prasad MBChB FRCP FESC Former Consultant Cardiologist and Lead Clinician for Heart Failure Epsom & St Helier University Hospital; Currently Locum Consultant Cardiologist at Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust
  10. Dr Arun Baksi, Emeritus consultant physician
  11. Dr Michael Eden, consultant pathologist
  12. Susan Burell, consultant sonographer/ radiographer
  13. Dr Louella Vaughan, Consultant Physician in Acute Medicine
  14. Dr Kit Byatt, retired consultant geriatrician now working in human rights medicine
  15. Dr Ravi M Kare Consultant Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals
  16. Dr Paul Garrud Hon. Associate Professor, School of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Nottingham
  17. Dr Margaret Beedie Retired consultant psychiatrist
  18. Dr Susan Read MBE, FRCN. Retired Professor of Nursing Research at Sheffield University.
  19. Craig Jerwood MBBS, FRCA, FFICM Consultant in Intensive Care Medicine
  20. Dr Chantal Meystre MB ChB MA FRCP UKCP Palliative Medicine Consultant and Integrative Psychotherapist
  21. Thomas R. Lee, MB, BChir, FRCP, MRCPC retired Paediatrician
  22. Dr Jenefer Sargent Consultant Paediatrician
  23. Dr Catriona Connolly MBBS FRCA Consultant Anaesthetist
  24. Julia Bodle Consultant obstetrician
  25. Lesley Pavincich Consultant Psychotherapist
  26. Dr Rakesh Aga FRCP, Consultant Gastroenterologist, Nobles Hospital Isle of Man
  27. Shona M Hamilton Consultant Obstetrician (Retd) BSc, MB ChB, LLB, PGCert, MPhil FRCOG
  28. Dr Nancy Redfern Consultant Anaesthetist.
  29. Dr Katharine McDevitt, MBBS, MRCPCH, FRACP, Consultant Paediatrician Peterborough City Hospital
  30. John A Hamilton FRCS Edinburgh & Glasgow Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon (Retd.)
  31. Dr D S Wijayatilake Consultant Intensive Care Medicine Queens Hospital Romford
  32. Milap Rughani Consultant Plastic Surgeon
  33. Dr Hugo Farne Respiratory Consultant, Imperial College London
  34. Eleni Gounari Paediatric consultant
  35. Therese Walsh Anaesthesia Fellow
  36. Mr Ismail Hassan Consultant Obs. & Gynae Birmingham Women & Children Hospital
  37. Dr Sarwat Shah Locum Consultant Dermatologist
  38. Mark J Curtis MBBS FRCS (Ed) FRCS (Eng) MFSEM (UK), Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon
  39. Jacqueline Anne Henshall Head of Private Patients (recently retired) Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust
  40. Matthew Welberry Smith Consultant Renal Transplant Physician
  41. Dr M Senaratne Consultant Psychiatrist
  42. Nasser Kurdy Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon
  43. Edwin Jesudason, Consultant in Rehabilitation Medicine Scotland
  44. Dr Arshad Siddique Consultant Psychiatrist
  45. Francis Sheehy Skeffington Retired Consultant Paediatrician
  46. Val Kyle, retired Consultant Rheumatologist
  47. Dr Neil Finer, Consultant Ophthalmologist
  48. Salam Alsam NHS Consultant
  49. Dr Kim E Isaacs FRACS Consultant Surgeon | Surgical Oncology General Surgery | St Vincent’s Hospital, Australia
  50. Mr John Davies Consultant surgeon Whipps Cross Hospital
  51. David Church, Locum GP, Wales, and currently also Consultant Support to North Wales Regional Hub of Test, Trace, Protect
  52. Keith Baxby Retired consultant surgeon. Dundee
  53. Dr Sean Whyte Consultant Psychiatrist & Deputy Medical Director
  54. Dr John Cøoper Consultant cardiologist
  55. Aprajit Bhalla Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon
  56.  Dilshad Marikar Paediatric Consultant West Suffolk Hospital
  57. Dr Carolyn Ruth Broadbent, recently-retired Consultant Anaesthetist, Royal Derby Hospital
  58. Dr Philip Timms Consultant Psychiatrist, South London and Maudsley NHS Trust
  59. Dr Katherine Pendry Consultant Haematologist (retired)
  60. Dr Jenny Jenkins Retired Consultant Anaesthetist
  61. Mr Basavaraj Sreeshyla, consultant ENT surgeon
  62. Dr Jonathan Taylor, consultant in emergency medicine 
  63. Dr Subramanian Narayanan, consultant radiologist
  64. Dr Deb Lee, consultant paediatrician
  65. Dr Peter Sheppard.  Consultant radiologist
  66. Dr Sheena Pinion, former consultant obstetrician Kirkcaldy Scotland
  67.  Iain Muir Consultant Surgeon Dumfries & Galloway Royal Infirmary
  68. Dr John Baksi, consultant cardiologist
  69. Dr Bettina Harms, consultant paediatrician
  70. Professor Parag Singhal, consultant endocrinologist
  71.  Dr Christopher Moulton, Consultant in emergency medicine
  72. Dr Colin Hutchinson. Consultant Ophthalmologist
  73. Mr Amit Sinha, consultant Orthopaedic surgeon
  74. Dr Chriam George, consultant radiologist
  75. Dr Venugopal Poothirikovil, consultant paediatrician
  76. Miss Helen Fernandes, consultant neurosurgeon
  77. Mr Radhakrishna Shanbhag, Consultant in Trauma
  78. Dr Anil Jain, consultant radiologist
  79. Mr Omer Karim MB BS, MS, FRCSUrol, Locum Consultant Urological Surgeon, Royal Marsden and Charing Cross Hospitals
  80. Dr Azhar Ansari MBChB DM PhD FRCP
  81. Dr Tariq Choudhry.  Locum Consultant Psychiatrist Barnet Enfield and Haringey NHS Trust
  82. Dr Amit Mukherjee, Consultant Psychiatrist, London
  83. Roger Gartland actor
  84. Dr Ana Martinez Nahorro, Consultant cardiologist
  85. Kevin Donovan, secretary, Defend Our NHS
  86.  Brian Howard Thompson Retired BT Divisional Director
  87. Dr Malila Noone, Microbiologist
  88. DR Sunil Saxena, Anaesthetist
  89. Dr Naila Aslam, medical advisor.
  90. Dr Suma Basavaraj, general practitioner
  91. Dr Nishant Joshi, GP
  92. Mr Alexander Phillips, Research Director
  93. Dr David Mark Thornton, Senior partner, Richmond Medical Centre, Lincoln
  94. Dr James Wilson Haematology SpR
  95. Dr Katie Brooks, Principal Medical Writer
  96. Colin Padgett, Teacher, tutor and examiner
  97. Brian Morris Retired
  98. Dr Yasar Sabir Anatomy Fellow, University of Birmingham
  99. Ingrid Broad, Retired, previously MCSP, AACP
  100. Gordon Drummond Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer Department of Anaesthesia, Critical Care and Pain Medicine Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh
  101. Dr Rebekah Cutler General Practitioner
  102. Jonathan Mackay MB ChB retired GP
  103. Keith Baker retired GP Trainer
  104. Moya Duffy retired GP
  105. Stephen Taylor IT Engineer retired
  106. Dr Heechan Kang Locum Senior Clinical Fellow/Specialist Registrar in Paediatric Cardiology
  107. John Bugler, retired
  108. Jan Marriott Registered General Nurse retired
  109. Judith Joy Member of the public
  110. Ian Talbot Process Operator
  111. Alan Ribot-Smith Retired Crypto Security Consultant
  112. Leonard Rouse, retired high school teacher
  113. Denise Cheetham  local authority employee
  114. David Mousley
  115. Dr C C Hulbert Retired
  116. Nigel Morris Civil Servant NI – Electricity Network Policy
  117. Rosalyn Anderson Retired senior pharmacist NHS
  118. Dr Michael Trowbridge GP
  119. Dr Fionnuala Kelly Orthopaedics Registrar Gold Coast University Hospital, Australia.
  120. Eamonn Rafferty
  121. Dr Cate Bulmer, GP trainee, NHS Education Scotland
  122. Patricia Lawlor, Lawyer and Vice-Chair of Whitestone Patient Participation Group
  123. Sinead Summers nurse at Shooting Star Children’s Hospices, Guildford
  124. Dr Ian Cocks GP retired
  125. David Buglass Translater
  126. Cllr Dr Hannah Charlotte Copley Clinical Research Training Fellow, University of Cambridge and Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge
  127. Charles Bockett-Pugh retired engineer
  128. Glanville Neale Retired
  129.  Tracy Nelms Registered General Nurse (Community/General Practice
  130.  Brian Smart, retired Chartered Surveyor
  131. Robert Knowles, Retired maintenance engineer
  132. Catherine Hills Retired
  133. Emma Tyson ST4 Anaesthetics St Georges Hospital
  134. Dr Ibironke Tayo ST4 O&G  RCOG EOE ePortfolio champion
  135. Denise Wentworth Retired Nurse Practitioner
  136. Brian Wedge Retired
  137. John Harwood Ex telecommunications fitter
  138. Gerard Murphy MB BCh FRCP(Edin) MRCGP MICGP DPD(UWCM),Retired General Practitioner, Lisburn, Co. Antrim.
  139. Dr Nigel Speight Paediatrician (and Guardian reader) DurhamNeil Purcell – Lighting Cameraman
  140. Ravinder Passi whistleblower
  141. Dr Nick Mann, GP in LondonDr Derek Jones Associate Senior Researcher Italian National Research Council (CNR)Bologna, Italy
  142. Dr John Calvert, retired NHS General Practitioner
  143. Dr Krishnaveni padala Gpst3
  144. Thomas Clother Lorry Driver
  145. Christine Joachim Retired Social Worker
  146. Una-Jane Winfield Researcher and campaigner
  147. Joanne Rossouw – Barclays Bank whistleblower
  148. Bob McClenning   Retired, Liberal Democrat activist
  149. Oliver Darlington retired lecturer in MIcrobial Genetics
  150. Dr Sara MacDermott, GP
  151.  Roger Bilham retired metallurgist
  152. Dr Mary O’Gorman
  153. Patricia Browne, Retired  Care Manager
  154. Dr Anya Gopfert Public Health Registrar
  155. Russell Dunkeld Retired Registered General Nurse
  156. Judith King Retired GP
  157. Naomi R. Bowen, Retired Parish Clerk.
  158. Roger Lallemant, retired construction worker
  159. Ms S Murgraff Member of the Public
  160. Dr Kerry Orchard Specialty Doctor in Palliative Care
  161. Patrick Kirkby Retired
  162. Ian Leonard Owner – Leonard Projects Consultancy (Telecommunications) 
  163. Penelope Burton Retired GP
  164. Sally Hart
  165. Jessica Harris GP Partner
  166. Marian Davies Retired civil servant
  167. Wendy Horler Retired NHS worker
  168. Jamal Siddiqi member of the public
  169. Dr Yok Fun Chang Retired GP
  170. Andrew Pearce Learning & Teaching Quality Manager
  171. Siobhan Coleman Retired.
  172. Revd Judith Palmer- GP before ordination
  173. Dr Jason Holdcroft-Long  Specialist registrar in old age psychiatry
  174. Abelardo Clariana-Piga -member of the public
  175. Michael Young – retired broadcast media journalist.
  176.  Alison McDermott, BSc Hons, FCIPD. HR Consultant
  177. Ashley Borkett IT Systems Engineer
  178. KJ Swainson Retired Registered Nurse
  179. Nina Basey-Fisher, Sales Consultant
  180.  Gillian Kirk member of the public
  181. Dr Nisha Bhudia  ST7 in anaesthesia.
  182. Dr Mary-Clare Parker, GP
  183. Dr Gurdave Gill General Practitioner
  184. Dr Charles McEvoy, GP partner, Ripon
  185. Dr Alison Barnes Locum GP St Richard’s Hospital Chichester
  186. Stuart Dixon Retired NHS worker Author of Toxic Lives
  187. Christine Aram Retired Midwife
  188. Mike Darbyshire Trustee of the Bowles Rocks Trust
  189. Chris Cowsley Retired Professional
  190. Sheila Hedges  Retired
  191. Irene Leonard
  192. Dr Winifred Stack 
  193. General Practitioner Newcastle upon Tyne.
  194. Michael J Tynen Retired College Lecturer
  195. Angus Bearn Company director
  196. Harry McAulay Retired Schoolmaster
  197. Dr Andrew Muirhead-Smith ST6 Intensive Care & Anaesthesia
  198. Shuna Watkinson Retired nurse
  199. Joanna Lane CEO of  the charity Christopher Lane Trust.
  200. Martin Heaps, Data Security Analyst.
  201. David Collett, retired
  202. Dr Alexander Stockdale NIHR Academic Clinical Lecturer in Infectious Diseases University of Liverpool
  203. Rev Dr Judith Gretton-Dann Church of England priest
  204. Dr Tiago Ivo General Practitioner
  205. Derek Medhurst retired coach and assessor on organisations
  206. Harry Smart, writer and poet
  207. Maureen A Vilar retired teacher at Portsmouth City Council.
  208. Jackie Morgan retired union official
  209. Mary Lester RGN, BA(Hons) Specialist Community Nursing, wound care nurse
  210. Garry Dring – Registered Nurse Senior Clinical Advisor, North East Ambulance Service
  211. Julia Mountain Retired
  212. Sunil Kapur Teaching Assistant
  213. Carol Lindsay Smith.
  214. Ms Mary Morrison retired Uni SL in Language in Education
  215. Karen Clark mother to two hospital doctors
  216. Sandra Ash retired art tutor
  217. Justin Dennis Deputy grounds and gardens manager Royal Hospital Chelsea
  218. Carolyn Hupton retired
  219. Dr Peter Sinclair Whitehead GP Harrogate District Hospital Foundation Trust
  220. Margaret E. Johnson member of the public
  221. Dr Jennifer Adams Mb ChB MRCGP retired
  222. Philip Tucker Retired
  223. Jennifer Hall Health Visitor
  224. Mrs Sue Fuller retired social worker
  225. Dr Tom McNaughton, specialist registrar
  226. Dr Philip Delbridge Doctor (Middle Grade) – Emergency Medicine
  227. Nicholas Ellam  Project Manager (retired)
  228. Linda Walker NHS employee
  229. Janet Thompson Retired State Registered Nurse
  230. Ruth Barker Retired GP
  231. Rosemary Clarke Retired Solicitor
  232. Jo Reynolds Member of the public
  233. Dr Naomi Beer GP East London
  234. Graham Pearson – Engineer retired
  235. Carin Parker – Solicitor retired
  236. Mary-Louise Stewart Member of the Public
  237. Dr Ankush Dhariwal Doctor in Infectious Diseases and Microbiology
  238. Dr David Sillince Retired GP
  239. Marc Woodman Junior Doctor
  240. Dr Andrew McArdle MRCPCH MSc MA Clinical Research Training Fellow, Imperial College London
  241. Naomi Adelson, GP
  242. Saad Chowdhury  GP VTS Registrar (junior doctor)
  243. Dr David Miles GP with a Special Interest in Addictions SE & NE Recovery Hubs
  244. Saleha Jamali Member of the Public
  245. Rebecca Winsor D.O. Registered Osteopath
  246. Jonathan Gurr Retired General Practitioner
  247. Matt Sheehy GP Derby
  248. Tracy Mason Court reporter
  249. Nigel Midgley – Operations Manager
  250. Ilkay Cetin  Tranlator
  251. Hilary Beavan Company director
  252. Rachel Nicolle, FwSS, self-employed Shiatsu practitioner
  253. Jill Stevens Retired Journalist
  254. Dr Mark N. Upton GP Tutor, Hull York Medical School
  255. John Thain Ex-Nurse and Retired Nurse Lecturer
  256. Dr Venetia Fawcett Retired GP
  257. Ashley Borkett IT system engineer
  258. Robert Wyatt Retired head teacher
  259. Dr Peter Tyerman Board member Autism Plus
  260. Dr Cara Hughes BM MSc FRCA Anaesthetic Trainee ST6 West of Scotland Deanery
  261. Karl Connor Head of Communications and Community Engagement,
  262. Dr Manuela Perry Specialty doctor in Psychiatry
  263. Pamela Cross GP
  264. Dr Marion Judd PhD
  265. Rob Wheatley CTO – Watson Wheatley Financial System
  266. Clio Bellenis Retired child and adolescent psychiatrist
  267. Andrew Fitchett Locum GP
  268. Dr Lucy Dobson MRCOG Clinical Research Fellow in Gynaecological Oncology
  269. Julie O’Neil Libraries Services Manager
  270. John Graveling – Retired.
  271. Gillian Tennent Retired teacher
  272.  Susan Brown Retired Librarian
  273. Dr William Loveday ST5 Psychiatric Registrar
  274. Dr Jennifer Burgess (she/her) General Adult Psychiatry ST4 BA(Oxon), MBBS, MRCPsych
  275. Anthony Scratchley Counsellor
  276. Mark Pearse , retired farmer
  277. Dr Anna Passmore, locum GP Bedfordshire
  278. Rev Jeffrey I Smith Methodist Minister (retired)
  279. Jennifer McIntyre-McClure Retired Occupational Therapist
  280. Alexander McClure Retired nurse
  281. Dr Helen Parkinson GP
  282. Karen Blakey:  Researcher/Whistleblower in the Academic domain
  283. Kevin Ferguson IT Service Manager
  284. Hugh Wilkins Clinical Scientist
  285. Andrew Burd,
  286. MB ChB, FRCS(Ed), MD, PhD Director: Second Opinion (Medico/Legal) HK International Limited
  287. Janet Marks member of the Public
  288. Debby Monkhouse CBT Therapist
  289. Richard Slaughter   Retired Librarian
  290. Mrs. Carolyn Munro retired Medical Education Manager
  291.  Dr Peter Mercer PhD not medical doctor retired university lecturer
  292. David Squires, Definitive Map Review Officer, Nottinghamshire County Council
  293. Ms Shirley Murgraff member of the public
  294. Kathleen White, Retired Nurse
  295. Judith Lea Retired
  296. Julia Herod retired Social Worker
  297.  Philip Whiteley, freelance journalist
  298. David Hencke, freelance journalist
  299. Amrit Wilson, Writer and Journalist
  300. Dr Esha Sarkar Junior Doctor Whistleblower
  301.  Jenny Vaughan vice chair Doctors’ Association UK
  302. Neesha Hall member of the public
  303. Niccola Swan, retired Barclays regional director and former magistrate
  304. Dr Frances E Atkins MB ChB MRCGP
  305. Dr Ian McDermott MB ChB Leeds Community Health NHS Trust
  306. Staffordshire GP
  307. Terje Vangen Schea Fundraising Director
  308. Jill Church Managing Director Angels Healthcare Ltd
  309. Jill Hodsman, Children’s Nurse Specialist
  310. Sheena Reid – Talent Dynamics Ltd ICF Master Certified Coach
  311. Frank Reid FCA chartered accountant
  312. Name Denise Chisholm Paediatric Specialist Nurse
  313. Roger A Coleman, Radiological Safety Technician, Sellafield Ltd
  314. Oliver New Secretary, Ealing Trades Union Council
  315.  Sylvia Chandler (retired GP)
  316. Ann Barrett  MSc, MCOptom, DipGlauc, DipTP (IP)
  317. Andrew Burd, MB ChB, FRCS(Ed), MD, PhD Director: Second Opinion (Medico/Legal) HK International Limited

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Sellafield Whistleblower Case: Claimant faces a £20,000 legal bill for necessary Freedom of Information and Subject Access Requests

Alison McDermott: Whistleblower

By Philip Whiteley and David Hencke

A law firm in the Sellafield whistleblowing case has put in a bid for £20,000 costs against the claimant Alison McDermott, in part to deal with Freedom of Information requests – even though it emerged at the Tribunal hearing that the firm’s client had failed substantially to provide relevant evidence.

The costs application by Pinsent Masons on behalf of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, if successful, could set a precedent that weakens a citizen’s right to request information. It would appear to undermine the will of Parliament, given that when the Freedom of Information Act was passed MPs specifically rejected the idea of levying a fee for FoI requests.

The other law firm in the case, DLA Piper, simultaneously put in a bid for £20,000 costs against Ms McDermott – the maximum allowed without being subject to a further hearing – listing other factors, principally changes the claimant made in the detail of her case.

Sellafield site Pic credit:

At the three hearings in the case held so far there has been overwhelmingly strong evidence indicating that Ms McDermott’s FoI requests were both proportionate and necessary. She said: “The governing body [the NDA] in its ordinary disclosure, released one email. Then, when I put in direct subject access requests, many more emails proved that they had been asking questions about the termination of my contract. Then, at the hearing it emerged that Heather Roberts [former HR director at Sellafield] had withheld a key document that said that the NDA was very concerned about the timing of my termination and that conversations had been held. This information was never released.

“The Freedom of Information requests also revealed that contracts had been awarded for HR services, including EDI [equality, diversity and inclusion] services, for the value of £17 million. It was only after that that they [Sellafield] switched from financial reasons [for dismissal] to one of performance.”

Ms McDermott, an independent EDI consultant hired by the nuclear plant Sellafield, had her contract terminated the first working day after making a report detailing systemic discrimination and bullying at the plant, a pattern confirmed by a BBC investigation which reported earlier this year.

At the tribunal hearing in June-July 2021 her barrister, James Arnold, pointed to directly relevant evidence only coming to light shortly before the hearing – after a period of more than two years since litigation began. He was not contradicted by either Respondent (see our coverage on 30 June). This hampered Mr Arnold’s ability to call witnesses, and cross-examine them. Ms McDermott was not successful in linking the detriment she experienced to the reports she made, although she is appealing the ruling.

Law Firm Pinsent Masons claimed FOI requests were ” vexatious”

The law firm, Pinsent Mason, claimed that the requests for Freedom of Information and Subject Access Requests, were part of vexatious, abusive, disruptive and unreasonable behaviour by Alison McDermott against both Sellafield and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.

In a letter to the court the firm said she had “submitted four Data Subject Access Requests and six Freedom of Information Requests over the last three years, the majority of which were complex and involved significant work and additional legal time and cost by the Second Respondent [the NDA] to answer.”

It added it meant ”significant inhouse legal resource time and wider staff management time responding to data subject access requests and Freedom of Information Requests linked to the claim”.

Pinsent Mason said the NDA had spent £200,000 fighting the case and wanted £20,000 – the maximum it can claim at a tribunal – back.

Solicitors Regulation Authority takes no action against law firms

A critical response came from the Solicitors Regulation Authority who claimed that Ms McDermott had confused the difference between using all the information from Subject Access Requests with what was relevant to the case at the tribunal. The letter suggested that she should have highlighted more information from the requests if she thought the tribunal was not looking at the issue – citing the ruling from the judge.

The letter from the SRA making this point, dated 30 September 2021, cites from an earlier Tribunal ruling – following the strike-out hearing in July 2020. This was fully one year before the full hearing, where further directly relevant evidence came to light, as noted by Mr Arnold, including the correspondence in which the governing body admitted to nervousness about the timing of her dismissal.

DLA Piper wipes metadata and says it was a mistake

On another matter, as reported earlier, metadata was wiped from a piece of evidence in the case while in possession of DLA Piper, representing Sellafield, shielding information on authorship and time of creation of the document. The metadata was released to the claimant upon request.

The matter was referred to the Solicitors Regulation Authority, which decided in September to take no action. It accepted that this was a genuine mistake by DLA Piper, although its own investigation was inconclusive.

Pinsent Masons, for the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, did not respond to a request for a statement or interview.

A spokesman for DLA Piper said: ‘As a matter of course, DLA Piper does not comment on client matters. We refute allegations of wrongdoing on the firm’s part. The employment tribunal’s decision is open to the public and we would refer you to this for details of the case and the outcome.’ The Solicitors Regulation Authority did not respond to a request for an interview or statement.

Nuclear industry leaders contradict each other in landmark whistleblowing case

Whisteblower Alison McDermott

Guest Blog from journalist Philip Whiteley who is covering the whistleblowing case with me

A split emerged between two leading employers in the UK nuclear industry at Leeds Employment Tribunal, in a case where they are both respondents in a whistleblowing claim, in the session on Tuesday 29 June. Representatives of the governing body the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority overwhelmingly backed the version of events put forward by the whistleblower, undermining the defence of Sellafield, the nuclear reprocessing plant.

The case is being brought by Alison McDermott, an experienced equalities professional, who is claiming her sudden termination of contract by Sellafield in October 2018 was in response to her making protected disclosures on acts of bullying at the nuclear reprocessing site in Cumbria. Sellafield’s management initially claimed that the reason for her dismissal was financial only, although at the tribunal it has produced witnesses reporting concerns over her performance.

On Tuesday three senior executives from the governing body, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, offered sharply contrasting evidence. All expressed admiration for Ms McDermott’s contribution to improving policies of equality diversion and inclusion (EDI), and all confirmed that there had been concerns over the competence of the HR director who sacked her, Heather Roberts, and the HR function at the nuclear site.

Sellafield Human Resources department ” not fit for purpose”

All said the reason they were given for Ms McDermott’s dismissal was financial. David Vineall, Group HR director at the NDA, said that Ms McDermott had been integral to the EDI ‘journey’ that the industry was embarking on. Under questioning from Ms McDermott’s barrister James Arnold, Mr Vineall conceded that the HR function at Sellafield was ‘not fit for purpose’, the words used in a damning report he had commissioned by external consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The court heard how the governing body had recommended that Ms Roberts be replaced by Mike Barber, an HR manager at the NDA. Mr Barber, one of the witnesses for the NDA on Tuesday, said he had ‘a very good working relationship with Ms McDermott’ and was ‘surprised’ to hear of her sudden dismissal.

Some of the most damning evidence undermining Sellafield’s case only came to the court’s attention in recent weeks. Mr Arnold pointed to the date of 26 April 2021 when the claimant first learned of an email from 23 October 2018, just a few days before Ms McDermott learned of her dismissal, in which Mr Vineall wrote to colleagues following a meeting with the then Sellafield CEO Paul Foster the day before, where he suggested that Ms Roberts be replaced immediately.

Nuclear Decommissioning Authority ” very nervous” about Ms McDermott’s dismissal

Just last week, the tribunal heard for the first time evidence from Ms Roberts that she had a made a note stating that the NDA was ‘very nervous’ about the timing of Ms McDermott’s dismissal so soon after her critical report.

The revelation that the respondents had hidden evidence from the claimant and the tribunal that was helpful to her case until this year is particularly significant, because there were earlier hearings in the case. There was a preliminary hearing in July 2019, and Ms McDermott had been granted a strike-out hearing, on the basis that her case was strong.

The strike-out hearing took place on 7 July 2020, some nine months before the revelation of Mr Vineall’s email, and 11 months before more evidence from Ms Roberts, also central to the case, was made available during the hearing itself. Judge Lancaster did not rebuke the respondents for this, but it potentially constitutes a breach of tribunal rules by the respondents, as well as a potential breach of whistleblowing legislation, as it potentially caused detriment to the claimant.

Had Judge Batten, sitting alone last July, been made aware of all the relevant evidence, she may have awarded a strike-out in Ms McDermott’s favour, sparing her the ordeal of a further year of litigation and a three-week full hearing.

Section 47 (A) of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, under which the case is being brought, specifically prohibits employers from imposing a detriment on a whistleblower as retaliation for raising issues of concern in the workplace.

Mr Arnold reminded the court that much of the evidence has only been made available to the tribunal as a result of the claimant’s own efforts through subject access requests and Freedom of Information requests. This would indicate a strong claim of failure to follow tribunal rules – potentially a criminal offence by the respondents – though Mr Arnold did not press the case.

Ms McDermott’s data protection rights breached by Sellafield

Sellafield already has a ruling against it in the case. In January, the Information Commissioner’s Office ruled that it had breached Ms McDermott’s data protection rights in the handling of three letters of evidence on which Sellafield is relying to support its case in the tribunal over her performance issues. The letters were produced on non-secure home PCs. The tribunal has permitted Sellafield to use unlawfully produced evidence.

On one of the letters, the metadata was wiped while in possession of DLA Piper, Sellafield’s law firm, temporarily hiding details on the document’s authorship and time of creation. The law firm is separately under investigation by the Solicitors Regulation Authority over the issue.

The case continues.

Sellafield bullying cover up: Important three week whistleblowing tribunal case opens

Alison McDermott – whistleblower Pic credit: BBC News

A potentially ground breaking case bought by whistleblower Alison McDermott, a former consultant to the nuclear reprocessing plant at Sellafield, began a three week hearing at Leeds Employment Tribunal this week.

The case of McDermott versus Sellafield, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and former Sellafield HR director Heather Roberts has been brought under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 – also known as the Whistleblowers’ Act.

Alison McDermott, an HR professional and diversity specialist, claims that the sudden termination of her freelance contract in October 2018 by Sellafield was linked to her protected disclosures containing evidence of systemic bullying, and racist and sexist incidents at the Sellafield site in Cumbria. The original story was reported in Byline Times

Since the report came out the BBC did an investigation into what it called toxic bullying, homophobia, sexual harassment and racism at the nuclear plant.

At the beginning of hearing Employment judge Philip Lancaster told the tribunal: “This, of course, is not a public inquiry into an alleged toxic culture at Sellafield and it is certainly not a forum to investigate specific allegations of improper behaviour on behalf of named individuals.”

The case has been complicated by one of the organisations fighting her, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, changing its stance and is distancing itself from Sellafield. More will come out later in the case.

Ms McDermott faced aggressive cross questioning of her stance by Deshpal Panesar QC, representing Sellafield and Ms Heather Roberts, the plant’s former human resources director.

” I hope you’re not going to tell me we’re going to start letting women in burkas in here”- HR director

Ms McDermott was paid £1,500 a day – the same sum paid to previous consultants Capita -to monitor equality, diversity and inclusion at the nuclear fuel reprocessing and decommissioning site in September 2018.

Mr Panesar pointed out that she had taken no action when she first met Heather Roberts who is said to have told her “”I hope you’re not going to tell me we’re going to start letting women in burkas in here.” He said this was a reference by Ms Roberts because of security at the plant where people had to have photo passes. She said she was horrified by the reference but did not raise it with her because it was their first meeting.

Yet later after she had investigated other complaints she had pressed for a formal inquiry into a series of complaints and allegations about bullying, homophobia and sexual harassment. He accused her of ” weaponising” the issue at the plant.

Ms McDermott denied this,

She said Ms Roberts then asked her to take part in a covert investigation to “flush out” issues raised in the report, but she refused and advised her there needed to be a formal investigation.

Mr Panesar suggested she had agreed to take part in an undercover investigation, using focus groups to question staff.

The case continues next week.

A toxic indictment of the bungled nuclear decommissioning mess that cost taxpayers millions

Steve Holliday: A damning report Pic Credit: Twitter

Report recommends a root and branch review of the National Decommissioning Authority

You have a right as a citizen to be kept safe from any dangerous pollution from the ageing 12 closed Magnox nuclear reactors and research stations in the UK. You would expect the organisation protecting us to hand out properly thought out contracts to do the job. The failure by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to organise a £6.6 billion contract to clean up properly cost taxpayers £97.5 million when rival companies who lost out successfully sued the agency forcing them to settle with them.

This month completely unnoticed by the national press Steve Holliday, the former chief executive of the National Grid, published a damning report on how the agency failed to do its job and the failure of its supervising body, the UKGI, to supervise it and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, to keep tabs on what was going on.

So frightened were former senior executives of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority(NDA) of his inquiry report that they rushed to the High Court to try and get a judicial review to stop him ruining their reputations. They failed but delayed the report.

For the record they were John Clarke. the former NDA chief executive; Stephen Henwood, the former chairman; Robert Higgins, the former head of legal services; Mr Graeme Rankin, former head of competition and Mr Sean Balmer, former commercial director, He has spared their blushes by not naming them personally in his report.

Steve Holliday had in his remit the power to recommend disciplinary action against them for their failings. But he chose not to do so instead blaming the culture of isolation in the nuclear industry in general and the running of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority in particular.

NDA failed to keep a grip

In broad terms the NDA failed to keep a grip on what has happening after they awarded the contract to the Texas company Cavendish Fluor Partnerships before it ended up in the courts where it was successfully challenged by rivals Energy Solutions and Bechtel. The original contract was changed so much and cost so much more – latest estimate is up to £8.9 billion that the companies who lost out were able to sue.

So imbued were the senior staff at the NDA with how clever they were in organising procurement contracts that they missed warning signs and worse didn’t inform the NDA board what was really going on until it was too late. The UKGI is revealed to have a conflicting role – both supervising it and sympathetically helping it sort out problems. He rightly suggests that it should be stripped of its day to day supervision.

The report says : “There appears to have been a culture that sought to self-justify, and which was inward looking. In particular: the NDA had a belief in its own skills and intellectual ability, and did not recognise or seriously contemplate that it may have any weaknesses, when contracting and managing external advisers, it had a propensity to limit their role, and did not appear to welcome strong challenge; and it failed to take sufficient steps to bring in people from other industries with different skills and experience, and to learn lessons from them.”

Damning conclusions picked up by a whistleblower

His criticism of the culture of the NDA has been picked up by Alison McDermott, a whistleblower taking the NDA and Sellafield to an employment tribunal, and may be quoted in her case expected later this year. The BBC recently did an exposure on bullying and harassment at Sellafield. The link to the story is here.

He recommends a root and branch review of the NDA by the business ministry- which has now handed the contract back in house – changing its structure and bringing in people from outside the nuclear industry and putting a top flight lawyer on the board.

I am worried that since there was so little publicity about this report whether the ministry will have the incentive to do anything about it. If it doesn’t we could see more waste of taxpayers’ money and we need changes for our safety in cleaning up some of the most toxic sites in the country.

Four years ago Sir Amyas Morse, then comptroller and auditor general , said “The NDA’s fundamental failures in the Magnox contract procurement raise serious questions about its understanding of procurement regulations; its ability to manage large, complex procurements; and why the errors detected by the High Court judgement were not identified earlier.”

We now need the National Audit Office and MPs on the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee to keep an eye on this. He also has wider recommendations for the rest of Whitehall when it hands out big contracts.

Bradwell Nuclear Power Station; Being decommissioned under this contract

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