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December 6, 2013

Former Times legal chief suspended by tribunal after paper deceived High Court to expose Nightjack police blogger

By Dominic Ponsford

Former legal manager of The Times Alastair Brett has been suspended as a solicitor for six months over the paper's handling of the Nightjack case.
It stems from his handling of an episode in June 2009 in which police blogger RIchard Horton sought an injunction to prevent The Times from revealing his identity.
The Leveson Inquiry heard that The Times illegally hacked Horton's Yahoo account in 2009 but that this was concealed from Mr Justice Eady during the High Court hearing for Horton's injunction
.
The inquiry heard that Horton's lawyers, including Olswang partner Dan Tench, raised concerns over email hacking on six occasions, including in front of Justice Eady.
But The Times insisted the story was derived "from a self-starting journalistic endeavour" and a "largely deductive exercise" that began when NightJack won the Orwell Prize in April 2009.
Then Times editor James Harding said he was not aware the litigation was taking place. But he took the decision to publish the story exposing the real identity of Nightjack.
The Guardian reports that the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal found that Brett "knowingly allowed the High Court to be misled" prompting his suspension for six months.
The paper reports tribunal chairman Andrew Spooner's comments: "The allegations are serious – a high court, a claimant were misled and possibly the outcome of a high court trial may have been affected by this case. We balance this against the good character, the fact that he has had a long and respected career."

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