Professional Misconduct

Stephen Sedley

Not for the first time, Mr Justice Peter Smith, a judge of the Chancery Division of the High Court, got his personal life and his judicial work entangled. This time it concerned his luggage, which had gone missing on a BA flight from Florence. While the luggage was still missing, BA appeared in his court as a litigant and the judge demanded to know what had happened to it; he stood down only after an unseemly wrangle with BA’s counsel. The same judge in 2007 had tried a case involving a firm of solicitors with which his private negotiations to leave the bench had not long before broken down in rancour. On that occasion he refused to recuse himself and went on to display such hostility to the firm that the Court of Appeal set aside his judgment. A complaint to the newly set up Office of Judicial Complaints resulted in a public reprimand from the lord chancellor and the lord chief justice, who stated that a firm line had now been drawn under the issue and that the judge enjoyed his full confidence.

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