Former Times lawyer to appear before SDT over NightJack

Alastair Brett, the former head of legal for The Times, will appear before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) this week charged with misleading a court.

Brett’s appearance before the SDT follows a referral by The Times owner News International (now News UK) to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) last year (25 April 2012).

The SRA referred Brett to the SDT in February this year, but the decision was only published in October. He will appear before the tribunal on Thursday (5 December).

He is charged with failing to act with integrity and knowingly allowing a court to be misled in the conduct of litigation.

The charges stem from the 2009 revelation in The Times of the identity of the anonymous policeman behind the ‘NightJack’ blog. The blogger, Richard Horton, had tried to get an injunction to stop The Times publishing the story, but High Court judge Mr Justice Eady found in favour of the paper.

It was later discovered that a reporter had initially hacked into Horton’s personal email to get the story – later 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.

After Horton brought a claim against the newspaper, The Times paid out damages of £42,500 (9 October 2012).

Brett has instructed Doughty Street Chambers’ Sue Sleeman to represent him before the SDT. He declined to comment on the case.

Brett stepped down as The Times’ head of legal in 2010.

It is likely to be some time before the tribunal’s decision is published.