The Solicitors Regulation Authority was today accused of seeking to move the goalposts in a tribunal case stemming from alleged sexual misconduct involving the former London managing partner of Baker McKenzie.
Gary Senior is accused of trying to embrace and kiss a junior associate in 2012, despite receiving no indication of consent. He denies misconduct. Baker McKenzie is a respondent in the case, which is being heard by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.
Making final submissions today, Patricia Robertson QC, for the firm, mentioned 'the SRA's attempts to move the goalposts' in terms of the issues the tribunal was determining.
She said: 'Throughout this hearing we have seen the SRA trying to change and expand its case by pursuing points not part of its pleaded case on misconduct... If the pleaded case is not suitable, the SRA should reassess whether to proceed with the pleaded case and not start shoehorning into the proceedings a whole series of unpleaded allegations.'
Robertson said Andrew Tabachnik QC, for the SRA, sought to turn points volunteered by Baker McKenzie against the firm. Points raised by other respondents in their defence were developed as criticisms of the LLP.
Robertson said: 'An investigation of this sort is difficult and sensitive, involving many delicate judgement calls. It is not appropriate to nitpick in this manner and hold up every [aspect] which could have been done better and say that's misconduct. You must, of course, scrutinise. But that's not an exercise for this tribunal, but for firms to undertake for responsible self-scrutiny.'
On the absence of reporting the alleged misconduct and subsequent investigation to the regulator at the time, Robertson said there was no allegation of manifest incompetence or recklessness. 'The SRA's own enforcement policy makes clear it will not prosecute mistakes made in good faith about reporting,' she said.
Robertson told the tribunal 'to be wary of the chilling effect' its decision could have 'if you went down the highways and byways Mr Tabachnik has sought to entice you'.
The hearing, which is being conducted remotely, continues.