News release

SRA prosecution leads to suspension of The Times' former legal director

The Times newspaper's former legal director, Alastair Brett, will be suspended from practising for six months from 16 December by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal following a prosecution by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

The tribunal decided to suspend Mr Brett yesterday (Thursday 5 December) after it found that he had failed to act with integrity contrary to Rule 1.02 of the Solicitors Code of Conduct 2007, and knowingly allowed the Court to be misled in the conduct of litigation contrary to Rule 11.01 of the Solicitors Code of Conduct 2007. He was also ordered to pay £30,000 costs.

The SRA told the tribunal that in June 2009, while conducting litigation in the High Court on behalf of Times Newspapers Limited, Mr Brett knowingly or recklessly allowed a witness statement to be served in support of its defence which created a misleading impression. The Authority also said that during a hearing in that litigation before Mr Justice Eady, Mr Brett knowingly allowed the court to proceed on the basis of an incorrect assumption as to the facts.

The litigation centred on the naming of the author of the "Nightjack" blog as serving police officer DC Horton. Patrick Foster, a journalist working for The Times, discovered Nightjack's identity by unlawful access to email accounts. Mr Brett denied the allegations, claiming he instructed Mr Foster to undertake research to demonstrate that DC Horton’s identity could be ascertained through open source material, and also denied knowing when Mr Foster first began to undertake that research.

In sanctioning Mr Brett, the tribunal described him as "a deeply unconvincing witness" who "blamed everyone but himself". It found Mr Brett "adopted a win at all costs approach to the Nightjack litigation".

Antony Townsend, SRA Chief Executive, said: "Solicitors hold positions of great trust, so it is essential that they act with integrity and do not allow courts to be misled. The public needs to know that if solicitors fail to uphold these standards they will be held to account."

The full judgment will be published on the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal's website,, within the next seven weeks. Mr Brett will have 28 working days from the date of publication in which to appeal.


Mr Brett appealed the SDT's decision, and his appeal was heard in the Divisional Court of the Queen's Bench Division.

On September 11, 2014, Mr Justice Wilkie ruled: "I would allow this appeal by Mr Brett, but only to the extent of quashing the decision of the SDT that he was guilty of a breach of Rule 11.01 by 'knowingly' misleading the court, and substituting for it a finding that he was guilty of Rule 11.01 by 'recklessly' misleading the court."

Go to the High Court decision

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