Junior solicitor who inappropriately touched colleague suspended for three months

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By Rhys Duncan on

2019 Christmas party incident

A junior male solicitor has been suspended for three months after inappropriately touching a female colleague at a firm Christmas party in 2019.

Frederick William Adams, who was a solicitor at Plexus Legal at the time, received the sanction from the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal for his actions towards a female colleague referred to only as ‘Person A’.

Ahead of the party, lawyers at the firm’s Manchester office received an email warning from their managing partner stating that “excessive alcohol consumption will not excuse unacceptable behaviour”.

But during the event Adams is said to have consumed a large quantity of alcohol, becoming “very drunk”. He then touched Person A’s bottom and thigh while on the dance floor and at the bar, according to the public disciplinary ruling.

When Person A left at the end of the night, around 1am, Adams said to her: “I would really like to fuck you, would you like to fuck me?”

The following day Person A spoke to a partner at the firm about the events at the party, providing a written statement five days later. The firm then reported Adams — who had joined the outfit in 2011 as a paralegal before securing a training contract and qualifying in 2016 — to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

Adams was suspended pending the firm’s investigation before being dismissed for gross misconduct in January 2020. His conduct was witnessed and corroborated by others in attendance at the party and shown, in part, on CCTV.

Initially denying the allegations, Adams said he had no recollection of the incidents and that “such behaviour would be completely out of character for [him]”.

At one stage of the investigation, Adams submitted that “he recalls an unusual conversation at the table when Person A pointed to various people on the dance floor and asked Mr Adams whether he would “f*ck them?”. He argued this conversation was instigated by Person A.

The junior solicitor also suggested that the CCTV footage did not reflect the behaviour of someone who felt uncomfortable in his presence, and that Person A “was clearly flirting with him”.

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Person A said that she was “appalled” by Adams’ suggestion that she instigated such a conversation, and that any notion that she had been flirtatious was consistent with her “very talkative and confident” and “tactile” personality.

Ultimately, Adams admitted that he touched Person A’s bottom and made a sexually explicit comment to her. Though he struggled to remember the incident clearly due to being drunk, he acknowledged that he shouldn’t have consumed alcohol to the extent that it led to his inappropriate behaviour.

Adams’ lawyer explained that his client had made an effort to “broaden [his] knowledge on the issues surrounding sexual harassment” and had “sought to gain insight by attending training courses, watching online seminars and by speaking to and reading others’ experiences of sexual harassment”.

In reaching its decision to suspend Adams for three months, the tribunal said:

“Sexual misconduct of any nature was extremely serious such that due consideration should be given to the solicitors’ suitability to continue to practice. The Tribunal assessed the nature of the sexual misconduct and in so doing determined that it was not at the highest end of the spectrum such that neither the protection of the public nor the protection of the reputation of the legal profession justified an Order Striking Mr Adams from the Roll.”

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