What to do if you are arrested as a whistleblower

Get proper legal advice immediately

Here in the United Kingdom, there are now some very repressive laws which could be used to legally harass, intimidate or actually arrest , prosecute, convict and imprison whistleblowers. e.g. Official Secrets Act 1989, Terrorism Act 200, Terrorism Act 2006, Counter Terrorism Act 208, Serious Crime Act 2007 etc.

There are some "public interest" defences but these generally only apply once your case has actually got so far as a Court or at least a pre-trial legal hearing before a Judge.

By this time you may well have been arrested, fingerprinted, DNA sampled, photographed, and had all of your home and business premises searched, and mobile phone and computers and paper documents seized etc.

The very first thing you should do is get some proper legal advice from some solicitors who are well versed in Police arrest and search procedure, human rights and data protection laws, legal aid and potentially long running legal appeals.

Say nothing to the Police or other "investigators" until you have contacted a proper legal advisor.

This also applies if you have not yet got to the stage of actual Police involvement, just an "internal" leak inquiry conducted by your employer.

Most people do not have the phone number of a firm of solicitors to hand, but whistleblowers, investigative journalists, and writers, bloggers and political activists should take the precaution of researching a few contacts, and keeping them in their mobile phones and address books etc.

N.B. as David Mery points out in the comments, you are unlikely to be allowed to use any mobile phones or electronic PDAs etc. if you are arrested, so you should also keep the contact details for firms of Solicitors printed out on a bit of paper in your wallet etc.

A couple of London examples of such reputable, expert firms of solicitors, who offer a round the clock telephone contact hotline (remember that you are likely to be arrested via a "dawn raid") :

We welcome any recommendations of similar firms in other parts of the United Kingdom.

Get witnesses to record your arrest or any searches

Get a friend or family member to take notes, photograph, record or video (perhaps on a mobile phone) , as much of your arrest and / or search of your home or business premises as possible.

Post arrest media publicity

If there is a genuine Public Interest in your whistle blower leaks and revelations, then the mainstream media and online media publicity may well be the deciding factor in whether you are prosecuted or not.

The "shoot the messenger" tendency of bureaucrats, politicians and other people in power is as old as history, but they are less likely to do so under the glare of publicity.


  • Trustworthy Contacts for Whistleblowers ?

  • About this blog

    We know that there are decent, honest, trustworthy individual politicians, civil servants, law enforcement, intelligence agency personnel and broadcast, print and internet journalists etc., who often feel powerless or trapped in the system. They need the assistance of external, detailed, informed, public scrutiny to help them to resist deliberate or unthinking policies, which erode our freedoms and liberties.

    Some of these people will, in the public interest, act as whistleblowers, and may try to leak documents or information to the mainstream media, or to political blog websites etc.

    Here are some Spy Blog "Hints and Tips", giving some basic preecautions, and some more obscure technical tips, which both whistleblowers, journalists, and bloggers need to be aware of, in order to help preserve the anonymity of whisteleblowing or other journalistic sources, especially in the United Kingdom, but applicable in other countries as well.

    Whistleblower anonymity may not always be possible, or even necessary, forever into the future, but it is usuially crucial during at least the early stages of a "leak", whilst it is being evaluated by others, to see if it merits wider publication and publicity.

    Email & PGP Contact

    Please feel free to email your views about this blog, or news about the issues it tries to comment on.


    Our PGP public encryption key is available for those correspondents who wish to send us news or information in confidence, and also for those of you who value your privacy, even if you have got nothing to hide.

    You can download a free copy of the PGP encryption software from www.pgpi.org
    (available for most of the common computer operating systems, and also in various Open Source versions like GPG).

    We look forward to the day when UK Government Legislation, Press Releases and Emails etc. are Digitally Signed so that we can be assured that they are not fakes. Trusting that the digitally signed content makes any sense, is another matter entirely.


    Tag Cloud

    CryptoParty London

    CryptoParty London

    Most months there is a CryptoParty London event. where some of these Hints and Tips and other techniques are demonstrated and taught.

    Usually at:

    Juju's Bar and Stage 15 Hanbury St, E1 6QR, London

    Follow on Twitter: @CryptoPartyLDN

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    Public Concern at Work - "(PCaW) is the independent authority on public interest whistleblowing. Established as a charity in 1993 following a series of scandals and disasters, PCaW has played a leading role in putting whistleblowing on the governance agenda and in developing legislation in the UK and abroad. All our work is informed by the free advice we offer to people with whistleblowing dilemmas and the professional support we provide to enlightened organisations."