Saturday, 24 February 2018

Saudi case that sparked Peter Smith J bias row back in court... again

Janan Harb
Excerpted from The Lawyer by Alex Taylor, 22 February 2018

Blackstone Chambers client Prince Abdul Aziz is facing a second re-trial in the high-profile case that launched a bias row against its original judge Mr Justice Peter Smith.

Peter Smith J was barred from judging any of Blackstone’s cases – or those of Addleshaw Goddard – after the publication of an article written by Lord Pannick sparked a row, causing Lord Grabiner QC to allege that the judge was biased. Peter Smith J’s original judgement was thrown out, forcing a retrial. The Court of Appeal later found that he was not biased at the time of the judgment. Peter Smith J retired a week before his disciplinary hearing last year.

This new retrial is the latest development in the case, which in the second instance saw claimant Janan Harb (the secret wife of the late King Fahd) win. The original claim was over an oral contract concerning a £12m inheritance of two West London properties.

The retrial is now going ahead after the judge dismissed the application to have Harb’s claim struck off for not paying £250,000 to cover 75 per cent of his legal costs in 2016.

Arnold J ruled that Harb’s breach of this order was an involuntary one after declaring bankruptcy on 1 May 2008. Harb was left with debts of more than £3m and therefore was unable to pay the full sum. He said an order would represent a “disproportionate interference” with Harb’s right of access to a court.

Peter Smith J found in his initial judgment that Aziz was personally responsible for the agreement and not, as he had argued, merely acting on the late king’s behalf. Arnold J said: “It is as if there had been no trial before Peter Smith J. Moreover, the Court of Appeal did not make that decision as a result of any fault on the part of Mrs Harb but due to the deficiencies in Peter Smith J’s judgment.

“Although the Court of Appeal noted that there were various problems with the evidence Mrs Harb gave before Peter Smith J, it did not conclude that these meant that she could not succeed in her claim.”

The new trial is expected to finish next week.

Peter Smith J also faced an investigation by the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office over his recusal from the air cargo cartel case involving British Airways in 2015.

The legal line-up:

For the claimant, Janan George Harb
Selborne Chambers’ Ian Clarke QC, instructed by Hughmans partner Matthew Jenkins

For the defendant, HRH Prince Abdul Aziz Bin Fahd Abdul Aziz
Blackstone Chambers’ Ian Mill QC and Shaheed Fatima QC, instructed by Howard Kennedy partner Steven Morris

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Behind the scenes of NexGen's Official Opening by the East Grinstead Town Mayor Video

Sofia Elias, founder of Nexgen with Cllr Julie Mockford, East Grinstead Town Mayor

Watch the finished product here!