Dr Beatt worked in a "dysfunctional" department (according to a review by the Royal College of Physicians). When his head nurse was dismissed during the working day he stated that he believed her dismissal had contributed to the death of a patient and that the safe operation of the unit had been jeopardized. He suggested no further procedures should be carried and eventually refused to attend work and carry out procedures.
An investigation found Dr Beatt's allegations to be entirely without merit. He was suspended, accused of having made false allegations and, following a disciplinary procedure, dismissed for gross misconduct. Dr Beatt unsuccessfully appealed his dismissal, however, when his employer referred him to the GMC they took no action.
After his dismissal, Dr Beatt alleged he had been dismissed for making protected disclosures relating to patient safety, the cause of the patient's death and staff morale. He also claimed he had been subjected to detriments in connection with his referral to the GMC and by negative reporting about him at Board meetings and to the press. His claims were all upheld at tribunal.
The Trust, who found the reasoning of the Tribunal to be flawed appealed to the EAT. The EAT found that the Tribunal had made its own assessment of the conduct charges, and finding them less than compelling concluded that they were not the reason for dismissal. It held that they should instead have determined the set of facts known to the employer, or the beliefs held by him, which caused him to dismiss the employee. The case was remitted to the Employment Tribunal, however before it got there Dr Beatt appealed to the Court of Appeal.
Part of the Court's considerations included the question of the significance of the employer's belief that the disclosures were not protected. The Court held that the employer's belief was irrelevant. The question of whether or not the disclosures were protected was an objective one for the Tribunal.
The Court's judgement on this point is perhaps not that surprising. If the belief of the employer was a relevant factor then it would always be in their interest to conclude that a disclosure was not protected. That would severely limit the scope of protection provided by whistleblowing legislation.