Gary Senior’s ‘failed pass’ at a junior colleague was not professional misconduct, the tribunal heard today, having been warned not to let ‘the pendulum to swing too far’ in the wake of #MeToo. The former London managing partner is accused of trying to embrace and kiss a junior associate in 2012, despite receiving no indication of consent.
In his final submissions, Gregory Treverton-Jones QC, for Senior, told the tribunal that ‘many relationships’ in solicitors’ firms form between junior and senior colleagues ‘with, as they say, one thing leading to another’.
He said female employees are ‘more likely to raise concerns about inappropriate behaviour and for those concerns to be taken more seriously’ since the #MeToo movement in 2017. ‘That correction is a thoroughly good thing. It is absolutely right that the pendulum should have swung,’ he said. However, he warned there was a ‘danger of permitting the pendulum to swing too far’.
While Treverton-Jones described Senior’s behaviour on the night in question as ‘inappropriate and reprehensible’ he said it did not amount to professional misconduct. ‘Viewed dispassionately the evidence does not establish inappropriate conduct beyond that admitted throughout by Mr Senior and that conduct does not amount to professional misconduct by him,’ he said.
He stressed that Senior desisted once he realised his advances were unwanted, ‘properly taking no for an answer’. Referring to an earlier Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal judgment against Freshfields' partner Ryan Beckwith - who was accused of sexual misconduct and was found to have acted without integrity - Treverton-Jones said Senior's behaviour was 'far less serious'.
Addressing another allegation, Treverton-Jones said Senior had been appropriately disciplined by the firm immediately after the incident. ‘As far as this case is concerned we further submit that the sanction of the yellow card – a final written warning, restrictions on drinking and an accelerated hand over – was a reasonable and proper response by the firm and then the Verein… reached in good faith by all the decision makers. It is 1,000 pities this was not properly appreciated by the firm when Roll on Friday published the article in 2018.’
The case is expected to conclude on Thursday.