Former Times legal chief Brett to appeal SDT suspension

The former head of legal at The Times, Alastair Brett, is to appear before the High Court next week in an appeal against his suspension from practice and costs of £30,000 imposed by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) last year.

Brett’s appeal will be heard in the Administrative Court next Wednesday (23 July). 

He is appealing against an SDT decision handed down in December (6 December 2013). The SDT suspended Brett from practice for six months from 16 December and imposed costs of £30,000 after finding that he had failed to act with integrity and knowingly allowed a court to be misled in the conduct of litigation.

The allegations were related to Brett’s conduct while head of legal for The Times and the unveiling of a Lancashire policeman as the writer of the ‘NightJack’ blog in 2009.

Mr Justice Eady ruled against an injunction preventing The Times reporting that NightJack was policeman Richard Horton. However it later emerged that a reporter had initially hacked into Horton’s personal email to get the story before standing it up by legitimate means, and had discussed it with Brett, leading to allegations that Brett had misled the High Court by failing to mention the hacking at the injunction hearing.

The issue was part of the evidence given by Brett to the Leveson Inquiry in 2012.

In its written judgment, the SDT panel said “key mitigating factors” including “impressive character testimonials, the respondent’s long and distinguished career, the fact that this was a single episode of misconduct” and Brett’s cooperation with the tribunal meant that it had decided not to strike him off the solicitors’ roll but instead to suspend him.

“It was to be hoped that the respondent would use the relatively short period of suspension to reflect on events and to identify strategies for preventing such difficulties in his future work. He was encouraged to identify, in particular, how he might have dealt with matters differently in order to develop genuine insight into what he had done wrong, which the Tribunal had found to be largely absent when he was giving his oral evidence,” said the panel’s judgment.

Brett turned to Slater & Gordon lawyer Shula de Jersey and Doughty Street Chambers’ Sue Sleeman at the SDT but is understood to be representing himself before the Administrative Court.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has retained Capsticks partner Daniel Purcell, instructing Fountain Court Chambers’ Timothy Dutton QC, for the appeal.