Ex-Times lawyer suspended from practice for six months

The former head of legal of The Times, Alastair Brett, has been suspended from practice for six months by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT).

Brett appeared before the SDT yesterday (5 December) charged with failing to act with integrity and knowingly allowing a court to be misled in the conduct of litigation (2 December 2013).

A spokesperson for the SDT confirmed the outcome of the hearing, adding that Brett had also been handed the costs of the case.

Brett was referred to the Solicitors Regulation Authority by his former employer, The Times owner News International (now News UK) last year (25 April 2012). The SRA then referred the case on to the SDT.

The referral followed the newspaper’s unmasking of anonymous police blogger ‘NightJack’ 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.

Brett spoke about the NightJack affair when he gave evidence to the Leveson Inquiry last year.

He was represented before the SDT by Doughty Street Chambers’ Sue Sleeman. Fountain Court Chambers’ Timothy Dutton QC appeared for the tribunal.

A written judgment is expected within the next seven weeks. Brett has 28 days in which to file any appeal.