The Solicitor General has initiated contempt of court proceedings against the barrister who broke the embargo on a Supreme Court ruling “as an act of civil disobedience”.
Tim Crosland, director of Plan B – a charity that supports strategic legal action against climate change – leaked the decision on Heathrow’s third runway, which he described as deeply immoral.
He said at the time that he was “ready to face the consequences” of his action.
The draft judgment was circulated in December, as usual, on a confidential basis and an embargo setting out the need for confidentiality was clearly stated. “It was also made clear that breaching the embargo might be treated as a contempt of court,” Mr Ellis said.
Six days later, the night before the decision was handed down, Mr Crosland issued a statement to news wire, Press Association disclosing the Supreme Court’s decision. The court referred him to the Attorney General.
Mr Ellis explained: “After careful consideration, I have concluded that in order that the rule of law be upheld, contempt of court proceedings should be brought against Tim Crosland.
“Irrespective of any personal views on any issue, there is no excuse for knowingly undermining court processes and proceedings. As proceedings are now underway, it would not be appropriate to comment further.”
The case has been referred to the Supreme Court. Contempt of court is punishable by up to two years in prison and/or a fine.
Speaking in the wake of his decision, Mr Crosland revealed that he warned the court of his intention to speak out if it failed to correct what he saw as a fatal flaw in its draft judgment. It refused his request to show the draft to another lawyer for advice.
The Supreme Court also referred him to the Bar Standards Board and he said he expected to be disbarred as a result.
The regulator does not comment on individual cases unless disciplinary action is taken.