A high-profile judge was defiant last night after he was criticised severely by appeal judges for refusing to stand aside in a case in which he had “undoubted animosity” towards one of the parties.
Mr Justice Peter Smith, who hit the headlines when he tried The Da Vinci Code case and inserted his own code in the judgment, was described as “intemperate” in the way he handled an application for him to stand down.
Yesterday Sir Anthony Clarke, Master of the Rolls, and two other appeal judges ruled that the judge had got “carried away” and indulged in “extraordinary” exchanges in court.
They said that the application for him to stand aside was “entirely justified” and allowed the appeal against his refusal to do so. But in an extraordinary response, the judge issued a defiant statement saying that he would not be standing down as he had not been told the decision.
He said: “As no one in the Court of Appeal or anyone else in the Ministry of Justice has yet actually told me I have been removed (although I discerned this when I prepared to sit on Tuesday but nobody turned up) and no one has given me any reasons for my removal I am unable to comment, save to say that I will not be resigning.”
The case arose after the judge had been in discussion with a law firm over a possible job – and been turned down to his “extreme” disappointment. An acrimonious exchange of e-mails between the judge and the law firm, Addleshaw Goddard, ensued, the Appeal Court was told. The judge described the e-mails as “insulting” and “condescending”.
The judge then found himself due to try a case last month involving trustees, one of whom – Paul Howell – was a partner with Addleshaw Goddard. Mr Howell then applied for the judge to stand down.