Sacked New Statesman source to sue Foreign Office

The Foreign Office civil servant who was cleared of charges under the Official Secrets Act for leaking documents to the New Statesman and The Observer is suing the Government department claiming unfair dismissal.

Derek Pasquill, who was first arrested in January 2006 and suspended from his job, was accused of leaking documents about Government policy on extraordinary rendition and radical Islam.

He was cleared of all six charges in January this year and the Foreign Office accepted that his disclosures had not caused damage.

The Foreign Office dismissed Pasquill on the grounds of gross misconduct on 21 August this year. Pasquill’s lawyer said he will be issuing proceedings in the Employment Tribunal claiming that he was victimised for making public interest disclosures.

Pasquill is issuing proceedings under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, which protects public interest whistleblowers against victimisation.

The documents and memos he was alleged to have leaked – relating to the Government’s attitude to secret rendition flights and radical groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood – were given to current New Statesman political editor Martin Bright, who at the time was working for The Observer.

Pasquill’s lawyer, Shah Qureshi of Bindmans, said Pasquill disclosed the relevant documents in the belief that the public had a right to know about what he felt were policies that undermined the “fight against terrorism”.

Qureshi said: ‘Derek Pasquill feels that he has been backed into a corner by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s belligerent stance.

“He made his disclosures in good faith, with no benefit to himself. As a result, he has been subjected to criminal prosecution, stigmatisation and the loss of his livelihood for doing what he thought was ‘the right thing’.

‘He will be issuing proceedings under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 which was introduced to provide public interest whistleblowers with protection against such victimisation.

“Nevertheless the door remains open for the FCO to engage in meaningful discussion.”

Following the collapse of the case against Pasquill, the New Statesman called on the Government to launch an inquiry, arguing that the failure of the case called into question the future of the Official Secrets Act.

The leader, written by now departed editor John Kampfner, said: ‘It was apparent to us from the outset that charging Mr Pasquill under the Official Secrets Act was nothing less than an abuse of state power, designed merely to spare the embarrassment of some ministers.

‘Tactics appeared designed to intimidate anyone in the civil service who has reservations about dangerous policy, and who might be minded to expose it in the public interest”.

A spokesman for the Foreign Office declined to comment on the legal threat, but said that Pasquill has been ‘dismissed for gross misconduct for serious breaches of internal rules and procedures”.

He added: ‘It is therefore a separate matter from the failed criminal prosecution under the Official Secrets Act”.

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