In whistleblowing terms, the Golden Hour describes the period immediately following an incident or an offence when material is abundant and readily available.
When anyone uses a speak up hotline, positive action should be taken by a whistleblowing report manager in the period immediately following the whistleblower report of a crime or breach of company policy.
These actions minimise the deletion or destruction of material and maximise the chance of securing material that will be admissible in court, employee discipline or internal procedures.
All material from a whistleblowing incident might be judged as admissible under certain circumstances
There are a number of general principles, however, that mean some material might not pass the evidential test... for example: hearsay testimony, intelligence reports or evidence of opinion.
Even though the material is of a type that is generally not admissible, it does not mean that it should not be gathered or that it will not assist in the whistleblowing investigation.
Such material might be highly valuable in setting parameters for other investigative activities or generating lines of enquiry that may produce other relevant, reliable, and admissible material, and should, therefore, always be gathered.
Fast track actions to take after a whistleblowing report
During the Golden Hour period there are a number of actions which, where possible, require an immediate response by the whistleblowing report manager initially contacted (the Responsible Person) or the whistleblowing investigation officer.
If you are investigating a whistleblowing incident that involves health and safety incident, bullying, harassment, corruption, assault, damage to property etc. there is usually a scene or multiple scenes where the event took place.
Although every case differs the following actions are recommended:
- Visit and preserve the actual scene to restrict access and enable the gathering of forensic evidence it may become part of an external agency investigation.
- Draw a sketch plan of the scene.
- Take photographs or video the scene.
- Ensure the seizure and securing of documents, computer and telecoms data.
- Establish who had access at the time.
- Secure any incident reports, duty rosters or CCTV
To ensure and maintain the integrity of the investigation actions the following should be considered:
- Restricting staff members access to IT systems.
- Restricting staff members access to buildings offices.
- Relocate staff members.
- Suspension of staff members.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.