Top judge scolded for ‘shocking and disgraceful’ behaviour ‘mentally unfit’ to face disciplinary inquiry

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By Thomas Connelly on

Mr Justice Peter Smith has been “signed off sick”


A High Court judge, whose letter to a top QC was branded “shocking and disgraceful” by the Court of Appeal, is unable to defend himself at a disciplinary inquiry because he is “mentally unfit”, according to a report this morning.

Judge Peter Smith, 64, penned an astonishing letter to Blackstone Chambers’ head Anthony Peto QC back in December 2015, in which the top judge pledged that he “will no longer support” the well-respected public law set.

The letter — which circulated Twitter before hitting the national press — was branded “shocking and disgraceful” in a Court of Appeal ruling in the case of Harb v HRH Prince Abdul Aziz Bin Fahd, which Smith had originally presided over and in which Blackstone Chambers had represented the losing party. A £20 million award made by Smith was set aside by Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson, and a retrial was subsequently ordered.

Now, according to a report in The Times (£), the top judge is “understood to be mentally unfit to defend himself in a disciplinary inquiry”. The newspaper further claims that Smith “has been signed off sick and may never return to work.”

As well as the highly critical letter, the Judicial Conduct and Investigations Office (JCIO) is also considering a complaint in relation to the Chancery judge’s handling of a case involving British Airways (BA).

During a separate hearing, Smith embarked on his — now infamous — ‘lost luggage rant’, complaining his suitcase went missing during a BA flight back from Italy.

A spokesperson for the judiciary said:

Mr Justice Smith has agreed to refrain from sitting at the present time.

Refusing to confirm whether Smith was “mentally unfit”, a spokesperson for the JCIO said:

The JCIO investigation into the BA matter is continuing.