Dr Beatt was a consultant cardiologist. Relationships in the team in which he worked had broken down to such an extent that they had become "dysfunctional". When a senior nurse with whom he had a close professional relationship was suspended, he raised concerns internally and externally that the staffing of the unit was compromising patient safety. The Trust regarded these concerns as being without foundation and raised as a result of personal antagonism towards other members of the team and in order to secure the reinstatement of his colleague. Dr Beatt was accused of gross misconduct and dismissed.
He claimed that his dismissal was because he had made protected disclosures and automatically unfair. He succeeded before the employment tribunal but that decision was overturned by the EAT on appeal. He appealed to the Court of Appeal. By that time it was no longer in dispute that his complaints amounted to protected disclosures. The question was whether that meant that his dismissal was automatically unfair, or whether the Trust's genuine belief that his disclosures were not protected because they were not made in good faith, a requirement at the time, was relevant.
The Trust argued that the real issue for the tribunal was whether the dismissing officer believed that Dr Beatt had made protected disclosures when he took the decision to dismiss. If the dismissing officer genuinely believed that the disclosures were made in bad faith and therefore not protected, the automatic unfair dismissal finding should not stand.
The Court of Appeal had no hesitation in rejecting this argument. There was a two stage test: was the making of the disclosure the principal reason for the dismissal, and if so, was the disclosure in question a protected disclosure. The second issue was an objective question, not a question of what the employer believed. If the employer's belief was relevant, this would significantly reduce the protection available to whistleblowers. Human nature being what it is, it would be all too easy for the employer to conclude that a disclosure was not made in the public interest, or that the employee was not reasonable in their beliefs. Parliament did not intend that an employee should be deprived of their enhanced protection in those circumstances.