News International refers Times lawyer to SRA over NightJack

News International (NI) has reported a lawyer working at The Times and Sunday Times to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) for their role in the paper’s exposé of the NightJack blogger.

News Corporation’s chairman and chief executive Rupert Murdoch said in his witness statement to the Leveson Inquiry that he understood that “NI has referred the in-house lawyer involved to the Solicitors Regulation Authority”. It is understood that “the in-house lawyer involved” was The Times’ former legal chief Alastair Brett, who left the publication in 2010 (26 July 2010).

Murdoch added that he believed that NI has also since “reviewed and issued guidance to all in-house lawyers” following the NightJack story.

NightJack, whose real name is Richard Horton, was a blogger who wrote anonymously about his experiences as a police officer until his identity was revealed in a 2009 story in The Times. 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 accusations that Brett had misled the High Court by failing to mention the hacking at the injunction hearing.

The Times editor James Harding has since apologised to NightJack, the High Court and the Leveson Inquiry for the story (13 February 2012).

Horton is now suing The Times and has instructed Taylor Hampton partner Mark Lewis (13 April 2012). Linklaters is advising The Times.

Brett could not be reached for comment. The SRA said that it does not comment on continuing investigations. News International declined to comment.

For more on the NightJack story click here (19 April 2012).