Allegations, which are unproven, stipulate accused ‘ought to have known’ conduct was inappropriate
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) have revealed the allegations levelled at a partner in Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s London office for sexual misconduct involving a junior colleague whose decision-making ability was “impaired”.
Following a case management hearing which began last week at the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT), the SRA has published a full list of allegations made against Ryan Beckwith, a restructuring and insolvency specialist, concerning his “inappropriate” conduct during and after a “celebratory event” organised by the magic circle firm for its partners and employees.
The allegations, which are unproven, include that Beckwith attempted to kiss the junior employee, referred to as ‘Person A’, while they were both intoxicated. Beckwith, who made partner in 2012, then “initiated and/or engaged” in sexual activity with the junior employee at her home.
The report states that Beckwith, being in a “position of seniority and/or authority”, ought to have known that ‘Person A’ had given no indication that she wanted to be kissed following her reaction to the kiss, and that Beckwith ought to have known that his sexual conduct “had not been uninvited and was unwelcome”.
The allegations add that Beckwith ought to have known that because ‘Person A’ was heavily intoxicated to the point that she was “vulnerable and/or her decision making was impaired”, ‘Person A’ had not invited him to her home with a view to sexual activity taking place.
With regard to both incidents involving ‘Person A’, who has since left the firm, the SRA alleges that Beckwith ought to have known his actions were an abuse of his position of seniority or authority.
As reported by Legal Cheek, Beckwith’s barrister, Alisdair Williamson QC of Three Raymond Buildings, argued that the charges are beyond the SRA’s remit and that proceedings amounted to an abuse of process.
Edward Braham, senior partner at Freshfields, said:
“A partner of the firm is the subject of Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) proceedings and is on indefinite leave. Given the ongoing proceedings, to which we are not a party, it would be inappropriate to comment further on this case. The firm takes all complaints extremely seriously. When this complaint was reported to us we instructed an external law firm to conduct a thorough investigation and we took actions in the light of the report’s findings.”
Braham added: “We want a culture that is welcoming and allows our people to flourish, and we work hard to achieve that. We are running a firm-wide programme to ensure our values and behaviours are consistently experienced across the firm, and I am confident that we will continue to achieve change where it is needed.”
Beckwith studied law at Anglia Polytechnic University (now Anglia Ruskin University), before going on to study civil law at the University of Oxford. The hearing will continue next month.
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