SRA rebukes hedge fund lawyer for punching fashion designer at opera

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Row over empty seat

The Royal Opera House, London

A hedge fund lawyer who punched a fashion designer during a performance of Wagner at the Royal Opera House has been rebuked by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

Opera lover Matthew Adam Feargrieve was convicted of common assault in 2019 after punching Ulrich Engler at least once during a row over an empty seat at the plush Covent Garden venue.

The court heard how Feargrieve, a former partner at London law firm Withers, “lost his temper” when Ulrich Engler moved from his seat in row B to an empty seat in row A, shortly before the third performance of the Ring Cycle by Wagner had begun.

“By then the conductor was up and the music started and I received blows to my left shoulder,” Engler told the court at the time. “I only then turned around and saw Mr Feargrieve standing up and assaulting me. They were a constant flow of blows. They were very hard.”

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Feargrieve maintained it was in fact Engler who had started the fracas, claiming the fashion designer had thrown his partner’s coat on the floor after she objected to him sitting in the vacant seat.

But the court didn’t agree. The Oxford-educated lawyer was found guilty of assault and ordered to pay a fine of £900, costs of £775 and £500 in compensation.

Some three years on from the incident, Feargrieve has now been sanctioned by the solicitors’ regulator.

In a decision notice published this week, the SRA said Feargrieve had failed to act in a way that upholds public trust and confidence in the solicitors’ profession. He was rebuked and ordered to pay costs of £300.

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