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SRA won’t appeal Ryan Beckwith ruling

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Ex-Freshfields partner was fined £35,000, but not struck off, for engaging in sexual activity with a junior female colleague

The solicitors’ watchdog will not appeal the ruling in the high-profile disciplinary case against ex-Freshfields partner Ryan Beckwith.

Beckwith, a former restructuring and insolvency partner, was fined £35,000 and ordered to pay costs of £200,000 after a Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) ruled he had failed to act with integrity and had brought the profession into disrepute following a nine-day-long hearing.

The tribunal found that Beckwith had engaged in sexual activity with a junior female colleague and knew or ought to have known that the complainant was intoxicated to the extent her judgement was impaired. The SDT made no finding on the issue of consent.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), which brought the prosecution against Beckwith, has now confirmed it will not appeal the decision.

“Solicitors hold positions of trust and must uphold the high professional standards we and the public expect,” a spokesperson for the regulator said. “We are committed to tackling the issue of sexual harassment, including taking disciplinary action and ensuring law firms meet their obligations to create a culture where this is not tolerated.”

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The spokesperson continued:

“We refer allegations of serious misconduct to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal and it is they who reach findings and decide on sanctions. We are able to appeal their decisions if specific legal grounds are met. Following a review of the judgement in this case and having taken legal advice, we have decided not to appeal.”

The regulator’s decision comes just weeks after the SDT revealed its reasons for choosing to fine rather than suspend the married father of one. The tribunal said Beckwith’s misconduct was the result of a “lapse in his judgement that was highly unlikely to be repeated”, and that he did not pose “a future risk to the public”.

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11 Comments

Anon

Will he be appealing the decision?

(6)(17)

Anonymous

Why would he? He got off pretty easily, considering how stupid he was.

His city law firm career is probably ruined now but he could still end up in a very good in-house in some investment fund / financial institution.

(39)(21)

Anon

Why wouldn’t he? He hardly got off easily.

So is he appealing the decision?

(157)(257)

Anonymous

Apart from there being no proper evidence, no jurisdiction and no precedent for the use of the rules for this sort of event, there was nothing wrong with the outcome at all …

(45)(75)

Anon

Poor guy. Stitched up as a sacrifice to MeToo moaners.

(49)(71)

Anonymous

I thought it was just one interim application. And it’s a valid course of action given that many feel the SRA lack the jurisdiction to hear this and the costs for all concerned would have been less had the interim application been successful.

And the £200,000 bill/fine was the SRA’s, not Beckwith’s. Its unclear how it was arrived at, much less why they expect Beckwith to pay for it.

(14)(33)

Scep Tick

1. The SDT makes the decision, not the SRA.

2. Beckwith lost so loser pays. Hence he gets the SRA’s bill.

These are basic precepts of law.

(31)(1)

Anonymous

1. SRA decides whether or not to refer to SDT.

2. It wasn’t a court. Even in court, ‘loser’ doesn’t just get handed the bill – they only have to pay what is proportionate, reasonable and necessary. Unclear why an organisation can choose to target an individual, run up a huge bill/fine, and then hand it to the person targeted. If the SRA chose to run up a bill it’s up to them to pay, not Beckwith.

These are basic precepts of law.

(8)(36)

Anonymous

Probably a face-saving decision by the SRA. There seems little to no legal basis for targeting Beckwith and fining him that amount, and I wouldn’t hold out much hope for the SRA if this was heard in a proper court, they would most likely end up with egg on their faces.

This way, he probably won’t appeal and the matter can be allowed to quietly disappear.

I doubt we’ll see the SRA pursuing many more of these type of actions.

(10)(20)

Anon

On the contrary. The Sexual Regulation Authority will throw vast swathes of money at anyone who dares have sex in the profession. Solicitors are meant to be beyond the base urges of regular people (that is until the head of the SRA is caught upskirting an intern, which will be brushed under the carpet )

(11)(10)

Anon

Yes, as long as the ‘anyone’ is male. Yet they don’t spend their resources on what they exist for, to look at allegations of overcharging or fraudulent activities by solicitors.

Time will tell re future actions, but I suspect that they’ve been advised that these allegations are unlikely to have much legal traction if challenged, and they are a massive waste of resources with outcomes which leave nobody happy. Sexual Regulation Authority deserves an upvote though.

(13)(11)

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