A High Court judge is being investigated by the judicial watchdog after hijacking a hearing in a £3 billion case to rant about his lost luggage.

Mr Justice Peter Smith was asked by British Airways to recuse himself from a long-running competition case concerning accusations that the airline colluded to fix cargo prices. BA made the application for the judge to step down after he disclosed that he was engaged in a personal dispute with it. He claims BA failed to load his luggage onto his flight home from a holiday in Florence.

A leaked transcript of the recusal hearing (in full below) reveals the extent of the judge's obsession with his flight from hell. After briefly addressing some administrative points, Peter Smith J asks BA's counsel Jon Turner QC, "Right, Mr Turner, here is a question for you. What happened to [the] luggage?" Turner responds that his client doesn't want to get involved in the lost luggage at the hearing. Peter Smith J replies, "I am asking you: what has happened to the luggage?" Turner reiterates his preference to stick to the topic of the recusal. The judge replies, "In that case, do you want me to order your chief executive to appear before me today?"

    "Yes, yes, calm and love. Where's my sodding luggage?"

The judge raised the issue of his lost luggage over 40 times in his tantrum, which encompassed:

1. His suspicions

  • "Once again, the pilot has to know the weight of the plane. He has to approve the calculations for fuel. It is impossible for the pilot to take off without knowing that the passengers' luggage is being left behind."
  • "I read all my Biggles books, but I just do not, to my limited knowledge, know how this can happen accidentally."
  • "Just engage your brain, Mr Turner, and tell me how you can think how it can be possible that a plane can take off and accidentally leave the entirety of the passengers' luggage behind?"
  • "They might have left the door open and it might have fallen off in pieces as it was taking off, I suppose"
  • "Your client knows what happened to the luggage."
  • "They have the answer. They know the answer."


2. BA's customer service experience

  • "Apparently [BA's chairman] likes reading customers' emails. It doesn't appear to be necessarily he does anything about it, but he obviously likes reading them over his breakfast".

3. The incompetence of the Court of Appeal

  • "I have plenty of regrets about the way in which the Court of Appeal went about their decision [to remove Justice Smith from another case], but, like you I suspect, we are no longer surprised by what happens in the Court of Appeal."


4. Self Pity

  • "I am the victim."
  • "It is personal. You have personalised this".
  • "You wrote to the Chancellor and, in effect, suggested that any judge should be appointed to do this case apart from me."
  • "What about the stay for remediation? I am not even competent to do that, am I?"

5. Foreigners

  • "In the traditional Italian way, the fire engine arrived after the refuelling had been completed"


6. A possible explanation

  • "I pointed out that my medicines were also in my suitcase"


Peter Smith J subsequently gave a judgment confirming his recusal in which he denied that he was biased, but also banged on about his luggage again. Recalling once more how he and his wife landed at Gatwick and "hung around baggage reclaim", he accused Slaughter and May, BA's lawyers, of adopting "a three wise monkeys" approach to the location of his khaki shorts and selfie stick, "Which I found, frankly, astonishing".

He is now being investigated by the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office.

Emerald Supplies Ltd v British Airways by Blank

Tip Off ROF


Anonymous 31 July 15 11:55

God it's like something out of Judge John Deed!
Lucky for BA that they had such a convincing reason to get rid of him, what a knob.

Anonymous 31 July 15 14:41

It *is* a funny story, but your coverage of it is rather one-sided. BA had already tried and failed to get this judge removed once. Then by strange coincidence all his baggage is lost on one of their flights. Then, when he does what any normal person would do and embarks on their complaints procedure, quite properly notifying the parties to the case that he has done so, they immediately say that his private dispute means he will have to recuse himself. I agree he could have handled it better, but something fishy there, methinks!

Anonymous 31 July 15 17:02

@anon 13:41

So you are saying that BA had the foresight to:

1. anticipate that this judge might board a BA flight in the enar future
2. keep an eye out for when he does
3. misplace his luggage (and everyone else's on the flight so as not to arouse suspicion)
4. invoke the judge's annoyance so that he brings up the matter at trial and make such a show of it
5. thereby giving BA a great reason as to why the judge should be removed from that trial.

If that was all the "master plan" - well played.

Anonymous 01 August 15 20:23

Brilliant! Read the whole transcript. Howled laughing. Wish I'd been there. Tenacious would be an understatement. If I was BA, I'd have definitely given in and found an answer for him. Good on him, not the best use of court time and completely irrelevant, but surely everyone, including the judicial conduct investigations office, now wants to know "what happened to the luggage?" Somebody knows! Can we have an article update when this becomes apparent ROF?

Anonymous 01 August 15 22:54

@ anon 4:02 - I am a new commenter. This is a £3 billion case. They deliberately mislaid his luggage. They didn't "anticipate" his boarding, but the handling was deliberate. Smith is not a fool, he knows this but he couldn't articulate it lest he be made out to be a monster raving loony toon. They tried to get him off the case, and then tried to get him off the case again when this "emerged". He comes across as a bit unhinged if you don't understand the subtext, e.g. "they know the answer", "your client knows"...and he also goes onto talk about the lengths some companies will go to to get a judge off the case when it is not going their way. This s a £3 billion case and it was not going their way. When it comes to these sums of money, very dirty things happen.

Anonymous 03 August 15 18:52

Is my memory playing tricks, or wasn't there a bit of a row between BA and the Branson airline in which iffy behaviour was alleged. And somewhere in the Private Eye archive a story of someone being done over. The transcript is great.

The judge has a bit of form for forcefulness as well.

Anonymous 14 August 15 18:56

I agree with the judge, however unfortunate (and refreshing!) the way he handled it may have been. It's a bit of a one-sided article, ROF, and supporting the wrong side there. Three billion! All said.