A whistleblowing district judge who went public with her concerns about the justice system is trying to raise £10,000 to take her fight to be classed as a worker to the Supreme Court.
Last year district judge Claire Gilham lost her case in the Court of Appeal, which ruled that judges should not be classed as workers and are therefore not afforded the same legal protections as whistleblowers.
Gilham has now been granted leave to appeal and her case has been listed for June next year. Her crowdfunding page, entitled 'Whistleblowing rights for judges', states that the £10,000 will help to pay for her Supreme Court fees and the costs of lodging the initial documents with the UK's highest court.
Gilham, previously head of the personal services legal team at Cheshire County Council, was appointed a full-time district judge in February 2006, sitting in Crewe. She transferred to Warrington in 2009. Her case stems from the closure of Runcorn County Court in 2011 and the transfer of work to Warrington. Gilham said she became gravely concerned by the lack of courtroom accommodation and potential workloads. She claimed she was ‘treated detrimentally’ after she raised concerns about ‘systemic failings’ in the court administration. She wanted to make a whistleblowing claim against the Ministry of Justice under the Employment Rights Act 1996.
Gilham says on her crowdfunding page that she remains resolved to continue her fight 'so that no judge will face sanction for trying to correct mistakes in the system that maintains our "rule of law"'. Law firm Irwin Mitchell is helping Gilham with her case.
Gilham told the Gazette that she is crowdfunding 'as it's unfair for me to burden my family so heavily pursuing what is essentially a public interest in protecting judicial independence'.
She said: 'This kind of litigation is out of reach for individuals unless they are very rich. I've been funding the case myself for four years and now look to colleagues for help to get effective whistleblowing protections. Judges are well paid and I think my actions are part of my duty, but more than salary most judges care about the due administration of justice - and if they find it isn't happening they need to be able to speak up and be heard.'