Four separate allegations
An “extremely experienced” solicitor has been suspended for 12 months after being found to have inappropriately touched a 21-year-old paralegal.
Musharaf Javid Asharaf, at the time 53 years old, was accused of four separate acts, all of which the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) found had happened.
These actions included a comment directed towards the paralegal, known only as Person A, where Asharaf “made a reference to her breasts as ‘two mountains on your chest’”, and a further incident where the solicitor “slapped [Person A] on the buttocks”, before asking “is that sexual harassment?”.
It was also found that Asharaf had repeatedly rubbed the paralegals shoulders at work, and on another occasion “deliberately bumped his crotch area into her buttocks from behind”, stating “it’s your fault for having such a fat…” before cutting himself off, and finishing with “I’m not saying anything because I will get myself in trouble”.
Two of these actions were found to have been sexually motivated.
At the time of the misconduct, Asharaf “held a special position of responsibility for the paralegals”, taking charge of recruitment, along with “the physical and mental well-being of the paralegals”.
While he denied the allegations, claiming that none of the events had taken place as alleged, the tribunal found Person A’s evidence more convincing.
In relation to his inappropriate comment, which took place at a firm Christmas event, Asharaf couldn’t recall making the reference, stating that he had inadvertently consumed alcohol, which in combination with medication had caused a gap in his memory. The tribunal, however, were persuaded that the incident took place, with the SRA submitting that “a senior colleague remarking that [Person A’s] breasts were like “two mountains on her chest”, was unlikely to be something that a twenty-one-year-old paralegal would misinterpret; mishear or forget.”
Elsewhere, Asharaf claimed that Person A, along with other paralegals, had a vendetta against him after he had taken disciplinary action following their poor performance. While the tribunal accepted that the solicitor may have spoken to Person A in relation to her conduct, it nevertheless “preferred the account of Person A, whom it found to be a truthful witness”, and dismissed any idea of “a mission to make his life hell and get their revenge.”
This isn’t the first time Asharaf has had a brush with the SDT. Between 2014 and 2016 he was found to have misled clients by preparing inaccurate invoices, used costs recovered on behalf of some clients for the benefit of others, and misled his firm, resulting in a penalty and restrictions on his practice.
He has now been suspended for 12 months, had further indefinite restrictions placed on his practice, and was ordered to pay a reduced £17,500 of costs.