Recusal refusal was misconduct, says OJC

The Office of Judicial Complaints (OJC) has ruled that the actions of Mr Justice Peter Smith, who should have recused himself from a hearing, amounted to misconduct.

After a 10-month investigation by the OJC under the Judicial Discipline Regulations 2006, Smith J has been reprimanded by the Lord Chief Justice Lord Phillips.

An OJC spokesman said this means the High Court judge will now have the misconduct finding listed on his permanent record.

However, Phillips LCJ said: “I consider that a firm line has now been drawn under this matter. Both I and the Lord Chancellor value the services of Mr Justice Peter Smith and he has my full confidence.”

The ;Judicial ;Office said Smith J would not be making a statement.

The misconduct of Smith J was in relation to the case of Howell & Ors v Lees-Millais & Ors (2007), in which the judge was asked to recuse himself but declined to do so.

As revealed by The Lawyer (9 July 2007), Smith J had been in negotiations to join Addleshaw Goddard on a £750,000-a-year package for him and a court assistant.

The negotiations failed, and when Addleshaws’ private client chief Paul Howell was a party in the proceedings of Howell the firm sought to have Smith J recused.

The judge would not recuse himself, leading to a scathing Court of Appeal judgment against him (The Lawyer, 4 July 2007).