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Founder of Whistle-Blowing Charity Responds to Complainant by ‘Passing on’ Her Name and Suggesting She Calls Friend of Alleged Abuser

A prominent women’s rights activist complained about a “defender” of an alleged abuser sitting on the board of a whistleblowing charity. The reply she got blew her away.

Jamie Klingler at a vigil for murdered Clapham resident Sarah Everard. It was a watershed moment for women’s safety. Photo: PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo

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The founder and former chairman of the leading organisation for whistle-blowers in the UK has been accused of mishandling a complaint about one of his charity’s trustees – by giving the name of the complainant to the board member himself.

Ian Foxley founded and chaired Whistleblowers UK as a service offering therapeutic, legal and media support to whistle-blowers from 2012 onwards, before founding whistleblowing research charity Parrhesia in 2021. Parrhesia, which he now runs, is a small think tank focused on “providing policy makers with evidence for the reform of legislation on whistle-blower protection.”

Last week, Jamie Klingler, founder of women’s safety group Reclaim these Streets, learnt that journalist Martin Bright sat on the board. Bright is a friend of Nick Cohen, the former Observer journalist who left on health grounds in January – though sexual misconduct allegations were later revealed by the New York Times. (Cohen has denied many of the allegations as “vile and untrue”). In January, Parrhesia trustee Martin Bright said Cohen had been the victim of a “trial by social media.”

Bright is a renowned journalist who is editor-at-large of Index on Censorship and was the basis for a character in the Hollywood film Official Secrets. But his defence of Cohen unsettled Klingler, an activist and writer who has also worked with whistle-blowers to expose sexual harassment and misconduct.

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Jamie Klingler says she was “blown away” by the response of Parrhesia’s CEO when she wrote to him with her concerns about Martin Bright’s place on the trustee board of the whistleblowing group. 

Klingler wrote to Foxley and Parrhesia: “I was looking back through the most vocal supporters of Nick Cohen and was shocked that a trustee of a whistleblowing charity was publicly defending an [alleged] sexual harasser…I don’t know either of the men in question and haven’t met his [alleged] victims, but as a woman who encourages women to come to your charity for support with whistleblowing claims; I have to question how that conflict works within your organisation.”

In correspondence seen by Byline Times, Ian Foxley initially replied with information about having a daughter, adding he supported his trustee – and crucially, saying Bright “would be pleased to speak directly with you”.

“Shocking” Reply

Foxley told the women’s rights campaigner: “I know nothing about Nick Cohen or Dan Wootton or any of the accusations levied at them. I DO know that I support Reclaim These Streets and the values and ethos behind it and I applaud what you are trying to do (We have a…daughter who was working…in that part of London when Sarah Everard was murdered and it sent chills through us at the thought of similar possibilities,” he said. (We have removed location and ages to protect identities). 

The whistleblowing charity CEO added: “Martin Bright is the Trustee of whom you speak. I have spoken to him and he would be pleased to speak directly with you about Nick Cohen and his single Tweet about him. I have no issues with Martin, he is a good and honest man with a deep social conscience who is committed to advancing a range of social causes – of which I am sure yours is probably one alongside our own.  His mobile number is [redacted by Byline] and I know he would welcome your call.” 

Klingler responded that she could have contacted Martin Bright but that the issue wasn’t about him personally: “My query was specifically about his public support of an [alleged] serial abuser whilst a trustee of a whistleblower charity. 

“His tweet, given his position in the media, could be seen to tell victims and women of other abusers to keep their stories to themselves. That my query/concern was immediately brought to him surprised me— not that I was whistle blowing on him per se; but if he was so inclined, he could adversely affect my media coverage. [I’m] Not sure that the handling of my query was as well thought out as I would have expected given the speciality of your organisation.” 

Foxley replied that he would look into the complaint regarding Bright but added: “Referring back to Martin is only fair to allow him the opportunity to tell us about Nick Cohen and his stance.  Again, I suggest that you take up his offer of a direct phone call to discuss your issues with him – he is most approachable and I would be highly surprised if he took any action which ‘adversely affected’ your media coverage.”


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Blown Away

Jamie Klingler told Byline Times Foxley’s response “blew me away”. “For the head of a whistleblowing organisation, not taking any consideration of me at all. It was so shocking,” she said.

“It’s really enlightening to see just how deep it runs, and how oblivious people are. They do not see their mansplaining, and they’re making excuses for their friends, protecting other men. 

“It’s just so pervasive that even if you’re the head of a whistleblowing organisation, and someone is complaining about bad behaviour, the immediate reaction is to protect. “Oh no, he’s a good guy,” and giving out my information. It is an insane thing.”

“Ian responded by suggesting it’s a personal thing between me and Martin. ‘Take it up with him. He’s a really nice guy. I have a daughter. I support Reclaim’ was the impression. 

“I gave him a second chance: I went back to him and said: “That actually raises more questions than it answers.” The fact that Ian gave him my information when someone could retaliate against me in the media about it…he just brushed it off.” 


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Parrhesia’s website states that sometimes people don’t come forward with allegations of wrongdoing, to blow the whistle, because “individuals fear that speaking up is not going to be effective.”

Other examples are “fear of possible legal action against themselves” or that “they’re not brave enough to, but assuage their guilt by hindering or delaying processes within the organisations.”

Martin Bright told Byline Times: “I have only ever felt sadness about this awful situation. At no point have I downplayed the seriousness of the allegations.”

Klingler is considering a complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office about the alleged data breach. 

Asked to respond to Jamie Klingler’s complaints about whether his response was appropriate, Ian Foxley said: “It is also inappropriate to respond to any allegation without knowledge of the facts or without allowing the individual concerned to (a) hear/see the allegation (b) be able to state their side of the issue and (c) offer direct contact with said accuser.”


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He added that the context was that “Ms Klingsler [was not] a vulnerable person who has suffered at the hands of the individual [and] her confidentiality was not requested.”

“Ms Klingler was NOT/ is NOT a whistleblower. Nor has she (to the best of my knowledge) recommended anyone to us in regards to whistleblowing claims. Indeed, PROTECT would be a much more apposite charity to approach in such a regard since their aims and objectives are more closely aligned to respond to such whistleblowing claims and I would direct her to recommend a whistleblower to them in the first instance,” Foxley said in a statement.

Asked if he believed it was appropriate to vouch for the character of someone being complained about, rather than first offering to investigate the issue, Foxley added: “It is absolutely right to vouch for the character of someone I know and trust based on the information I had at the time. 

“Having inquired of Martin as to his ‘side of the facts’ and his explanation of his single Tweet supporting an old friend and colleague, to vouch for him was both correct and appropriate. I perceive his comment on ‘trial by social media’ as his commentary on current social mores and trends and NOT as a condonement of the actions of his friend.

“Indeed one of the foundations of English Justice is that the ‘individuals are innocent until proven guilty’ and that is the observation that I believe Martin was making.”

He added that he still vouched for the character of Martin Bright “as someone I know and trust – even though he is being complained about…One has to validate whether the complaint is justified and I do not believe that it was.”

Investigation Coming?

Ian Foxley said Klingler’s complaint “appears to have initiated the investigative process and I am content that my actions and those of Martin Bright, as a Trustee of Parrhesia, stand correct in the full knowledge of the facts of the issue as outlined.”

“I do not intend to investigate further and I will refer to our Board of Trustees to endorse that view – or direct me otherwise.” It is not clear if Martin Bright, as a trustee, will have to recuse himself from the process. 

Foxley added that complainants can have “full confidence in the complaints and safeguarding processes of Parrhesia” and that they will “properly investigate and validate their complaint, taking action as we see fit.”

He said he wished Reclaim the [sic] Streets the best, and “trust that [Klingler] can now commit her energies wholly to that work.” 

After being informed that seven women had come forward with sexual misconduct complaints, Cohen reportedly told the New York Times, which broke the story this May: “Oh, God…I assume it’s stuff I was doing when I was drunk.” In a subsequent email, he told the paper: “I have written at length about my alcoholism. I went clean seven years ago in 2016,” he said. “I look back on my addicted life with deep shame.” Cohen has called some of the allegations against him “vile and untrue”. 

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