Judge of lost luggage fame has been suspended on a full £181,566 salary since May 2016
A controversial judge, who, among other things, raised the matter of his own lost luggage during a high-profile British Airways (BA) competition case that he was presiding over, will finally face a disciplinary tribunal later this month, it has emerged.
Mr Justice Peter Smith, who sits in the High Court’s Chancery Division, is one of the judiciary’s more colourful characters. He first hit the Legal Cheek headlines back in 2015, when he embarked on a bizarre in court lost luggage rant, complaining his suitcase had been misplaced during a flight back from Florence.
At the time, Legal Cheek published a copy of the court transcript from the hearing, which indicated that Smith had probed BA’s barristers over his misplaced bag on at least 30 separate occasions.
Triggering widespread media attention, it was at this point that the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office (JCIO) first started looking into Smith’s behaviour.
However, it wasn’t until the spring of 2016 that 65-year-old Smith hit headlines again. On this occasion, he penned a letter to the joint-head of Blackstone Chambers, Anthony Peto QC, in which he pledged to “no longer support” his chambers.
The missive — which was later described as “shocking” and “disgraceful” by senior judges in Court of Appeal ruling — was in response to an article written by Blackstone Chambers’ David Pannick QC. The piece, published in The Times newspaper, was critical of Smith’s handling of the now well-publicised BA saga.
Over a year on, it has now been reported that Smith will face a two-day disciplinary tribunal starting on Monday 30 October.
The unnamed four-person panel will sit at an undisclosed location and consist of a Court of Appeal judge, a High Court judge and two non-lawyers, according to Joshua Rozenberg. The allegations that Smith faces have not been published.
A spokesman for the JCIO said:
The JCIO can never comment on the detailed progress of cases.
Following the hearing, Smith has ten days to respond before the tribunal issues its recommendations to the Lord Chief Justice and the Lord Chancellor. They will then determine whether further action needs to be taken.
Last year, a report had suggested that Smith — who has been suspended on a full £181,566 salary for past 18 months — was “understood to be mentally unfit to defend himself in a disciplinary inquiry”. It’s still not clear whether Smith will attend the hearing in person.