A tribunal hearing has heard that a civil servant knowingly sanctioned the deliberate pollution of Manx waters with silt from Peel Marina.
The tribunal was hearing the case of Kevin Kennginton versus the Public Service Commission regarding the specific disclosure of a document generally referred to as the Roberts Report.
Mr Kennington’s case originated in 2013 when the DoI asked DEFA whether it could dredge Peel Marina and dump the sediments blocking it in the sea. However Mr Kennington said these concentrations were ‘well in excess of international standards’ and would ‘constitute a significant environmental risk if dumped at sea and would impact Manx fishery’.
He claims that the report would provide further information as to why he resigned from the department in 2020 which, the tribunal heard, followed a period of work related illness and stress. However this would be a matter for a separate tribunal to rule on.
Throughout the tribunal, the civil servant who authorised this is referred to only as Mr XY.
The tribunal report said: ‘The Complainant recommended that advice should be obtained from the Chambers of the Attorney General with a full environmental impact assessment undertaken. However, the Complainant alleges that, through a senior officer, Mr XY, he was pressurised to support discharge at sea. In 2014 following dredging of the Marina, the contents were in fact dumped at sea.
‘The Complainant thereafter was tasked with monitoring the marine environment. As identified by him, the adverse consequences from the dumping involved closure of the West Coast fishing grounds with associated loss of revenue to the Manx and UK fishing fleet. However, his conclusions were not accepted by DEFA and Mr XY.’
Mr Kennington then pleaded his case with the then minister for DEFA. In 2014, Phil Gawne was DEFA minister up until July 1 when he moved to DoI and was replaced by Richard Ronan. In 2015, the gov announced plans to bury the silt at Poortown for a period of up to five years, which has now expired (but the silt is still there). This was announced in a statement which said: ‘Professional advice had warned that dumping large quantities of the dredged silt at sea over a short period could damage the marine environment and potentially result in a risk to public health.’
In 2016, the DoI again announced its intention to dredge the marina and dump the sediment at sea in 2017. Mr Kennington said this was illegal and made a protected disclosure to the Attorney General. The report adds: ‘The Complainant alleges that he then had to attend a meeting with Mr XY and, in front of various officers, he was “chastised and humiliated and regarded as a traitor”.’
He was later warned not to put anything controversial into emails regarding Peel ‘because they could be picked up in a Freedom of Information request’. However he did also make a further disclosure to the DEFA minister, however it is not stated who this minister was at that time.
These disclosures then became part of what is known as the Roberts report, which came after a report conducted by Dr Sharon Roberts. However Mr Kennington later was signed off work in 2019 and despite meeting with Occupational Health and the recommendations in the unreleased report ‘he received no further support and there was no facilitation to achieve a possible return to work’.
The Roberts report was delivered to Chief Secretary Will Greenhow at the end of March 2019 however Mr Kennington was not allowed to see it.
The tribunal report adds: ‘Mr Greenhow confirmed in writing to the Complainant that a précis of the Report indicated that the majority of his ten allegations had not been upheld. Two had been partially upheld. The allegation that Mr XY had knowingly sanctioned deliberate pollution of controlled waters was upheld in full.
‘Importantly, Mr Greenhow’s letter had confirmed that the Complainant had pursued the correct process of reporting and that he had done so in good faith with reasonable belief in the truth and that there had therefore been a protected disclosure within the Employment Act 2006.’
No Case to Answer
Following the report, the island’s Police considered whether the civil servant who sanctioned the pollution, Mr XY had committed any criminal offences. However the AG’s Office later informed him that there was ‘no interest in any prosecution’. Equally an internal investigation into allegations of gross misconduct was later closed.
The Tribunal, which was chaired by Douglas Stewart, ultimately rejected Mr Kenngton’s application to have the Reports report. Its report explained: ‘The Complainant is relying on the allegations of misinformation, bullying, isolation and gaslighting as factors of a behavioural type that were alleged to be material to his resignation decision. Those behavioural matters may, if proven, have stemmed from the whistleblowing allegations made against Mr XY and WZ, followed by the investigation and report by Dr Roberts. However, disclosure of the Report now serves no worthwhile evidential purpose. This is because of previous disclosure of the notes of evidence and provision of the SAR references to the Complainant which have provided cogent evidence from the Report.
‘The Complainant did not address how his wish to read the full Report had been impacted by having sight of this important evidence save for a slight passing reference to detail from the SAR information whereas the most important evidence from the Report has been disclosed in full.’
You can read the full report here