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Judge benched after writing "shocking" letter to barristers
20 May 2016
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A High Court judge notorious for throwing tantrums has taken a sudden leave of absence after it was revealed that he sent a bizarre letter to a barristers chambers implying that he would do them over.

Mr Justice Peter Smith wrote to the head of Blackstone Chambers complaining about an article in the Times written by a Blackstone barrister, Lord Pannick QC, in which Pannick criticised Smith for his behaviour in a case involving British Airways. As RollOnFriday reported at the time, Smith hijacked the BA hearing to accuse the airline of deliberately losing his luggage. Stunning the court with a rant in which he raised his missing bags 40 times and complained "I am the victim", Smith was forced to recuse himself.

Pannick wrote, “How we laughed. But the case raises serious issues about judicial conduct that need urgent consideration by the lord chief justice". In response, Smith sent Anthony Peto QC, the head of Blackstone Chambers, an extraordinary letter which has now leaked in which he whinges that Pannick's article is "quite outrageous" and "has caused me a lot of grief and trouble". Crying that, "I am extremely disappointed about it", Smith sulks that Pannick's "opinion is not worth the paper it is printed on". Then he gets nasty. Writing that he has in the past supported Blackstone barristers' applications to become Silks, Smith says "it is obvious that Blackstone takes but does not give", and vows "I will no longer support your chambers".

  Define 'Butthurt'

The petulant letter was disclosed when Smith ruled against a Saudi prince whom Blackstone was representing in a High Court case. Prince Abdul Aziz accused Smith of ruling against him as revenge against Blackstone for Pannick's article. Aziz is seeking to quash Smith's decision in the Court of Appeal, where Lord Grabiner QC has called Smith's behaviour "indefensible” and the letter “a shocking piece of paper" that provides evidence of possible bias.

    Smith relaxing at home

In a bizarre arrangement which the Judicial Office has refused to comment upon, Smith is understood not sit on cases involving his blood feud enemies. Blackstone is the latest addition, but Addleshaw Goddard is also on the list after Smith's attempts to join its partnership several years ago were rebuffed. In 2008, Smith was accused of taking revenge on the firm in a case involving one of its lawyers. Ruling that he should have recused himself, the Court of Appeal said at the time that his “wholly inappropriate” actions in the case “rose directly from the judge’s private affairs”.

Smith is now hearing no cases at all. A spokesman for the Judicial Office told RollOnFriday, "Following an issue that has arisen during civil proceedings, Mr Justice Peter Smith has agreed to refrain from sitting until those civil proceedings are resolved”. Given the growing number of Smith's mortal enemies and his frequent forced recusals, not sitting in the first place may save a lot of time.

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anonymous user
20/05/2016 03:30
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*letters of support from no fewer than
anonymous user
20/05/2016 07:21
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Blood feuds like this are usually confined to places like Albania or Kazakhstan. That tash suggests a touch of the Borat. Does anybody know which tribe he is from?
anonymous user
20/05/2016 07:57
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Who appointed this numpty in the first place?
anonymous user
20/05/2016 09:00
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Writing a letter like that, I am not surprised that barristers at Blackstone do not want to have a case before him.

I thought that appointing QC's was transparent. I can see that Smith and his 'brothers' have a good old natter behind the scene.

anonymous user
20/05/2016 09:10
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What a wand.
anonymous user
20/05/2016 11:42
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Never mind all this tosh. Have they given him his bags back yet, or what?
anonymous user
20/05/2016 13:28
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What a carry on (bag)
Lydia
20/05/2016 19:28
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I am not sure Pannick copmes out with much glory in writing in the Times against a judge. Doesn't feel quite the thing to do - he could express his reservations for someone he has never appeared before in a private letter surely?
anonymous user
20/05/2016 20:02
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We need smith v panick in a judicial celebrity death match. The bulky smith will try to dominate the ring but the lighter and faster panick will dominate the early rounds. Every blow should be followed by "I'm obliged" or "I'm grateful". He who utters the final "I'm obliged" wins largely due to "my opponent" being dead. Let's settle this once and for all. The winner gets a beautiful set of Gucci luggage which can be retained for as long as it takes for BA to lose it.
anonymous user
20/05/2016 20:40
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To the anonymous user at 20//05/2016 07:21:

Neither Albania nor Kazakhstan has anything to do with this English upper lip squabble between brightest legal representatives of the glorious English Legal system. I have a feeling that you have never been to Kazakhstan nor felt Borat's touch as Borat has not been there either. So, it would be sensible of you to keep your comparisons to your home country, my learned friend.

If you wish to compare the English judges to Kazakh, then you'd better know that Tyrion Lannister's favourite quote about the Royal Courts of Justice of England and Wales is that "if you are looking for justice then you have come to a wrong place..."


anonymous user
20/05/2016 21:45
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The imp's favourite quote about RCJ: "if you are looking for justice, you have come to a wrong place..."
Sebastianlaw
21/05/2016 12:56
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What an absolutely incredible letter for a High Court Judge to write . Apart from the low level of fluency and clarity it shows bias beyond belief - how on earth was this person elevated to the bench - I despair
anonymous user
22/05/2016 07:26
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Tony Blair appointed him as I understand it.
anonymous user
24/05/2016 09:31
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It would be great to have a dinner with all those who have fallen foul of 'gentleman'. Sadly I don't think we could find a venue big enough.
anonymous user
26/05/2016 12:48
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Judging by the signature, perhaps Mr Smith was not in full possession of his faculties at the time. A case of acting in haste, repenting at pleasure perhaps.
anonymous user
22/06/2016 17:43
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Is he under investigation but Judicial complaints?
anonymous user
22/06/2016 17:44
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Is he being disciplined?