Whistleblower Richard Boyle loses his appeal to be protected

June 21, 2024
Whistleblower Richard Boyle. Photo: Human Rights Law Centre

Richard Boyle, who exposed serious misconduct in the Australian Taxation Office, lost his appeal on June 19 to be protected under whistleblower laws.

Boyle was appealing a finding that he was not immune from prosecution under the Public Interest Disclosure Act (PID), the whistleblowing law for public servants.

But the South Australian District Court ruled that he was not immune from prosecution in a criminal trial.

PID is supposed to shield a person who makes a “public interest disclosure from any civil, criminal or administrative liability (including disciplinary action)” for making the disclosure, the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) said.

The matter will likely now go back to the South Australian District Court, where Boyle is expected to face trial in September. He could go to jail for up to 46 years, if convicted.

NSWCCL President Lydia Shelly said the ruling means that “the existing protection laws for whistleblowers are ineffective”.

She said whistleblowers face serious consequences for disclosing classified information in their quest to hold people in power to account.

“The Council has long standing concerns that criminal prosecutions of potential or actual whistleblowers will create a chilling effect on individuals disclosing information which is in the public interest.”

Whistleblowers play an “important role” in democracies, she said, as “many egregious misuses of power have been brought to the surface by the courageous actions of whistleblowers”.

She said the “criminal prosecution of potential and actual whistleblowers raises serious questions regarding Australia’s transparency and culture of accountability” as well as the role individual citizens play in helping safeguard democracy.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has the power to end Boyle’s prosecution, but so far has chosen not to.

Greens Senator David Shoebridge said on X on June 19: “Richard Boyle blew the whistle internally on harsh tactics to target individual taxpayers, and when he was ignored he went to 4Corners. His whistleblowing has been thoroughly vindicated yet he is the one facing prison!”

He said Dreyfus must “intervene to drop the prosecution and to commit to urgently creating a whistleblower commission”.

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