One allegation against a Freshfields partner accused of sexual misconduct has today been found proven by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal after a seven-day hearing which attracted national media coverage. The tribunal this morning found that Beckwith had breached SRA principles 2 and 6, in that he failed to act with integrity and to behave in a way that maintains the trust the public places in [you] and in the provision of legal services.
His lawyer confirmed later that Beckwith had resigned from the firm.
After finding misconduct proven, the tribunal heard mitigation before imposing a fine of £35,000 and ordering that Beckwith pay £200,000 in costs.
The proven finding relates to an allegation that Beckwith engaged in sexual activity with a junior female colleague, referred to as person A. The tribunal ruled Beckwith knew or ought to have known person A was heavily intoxicated and/or her judgement and decision-making ability was impaired. It was also decided that he knew or ought to have known his conduct was inappropriate.
The trial made no finding on the question of consent to sexual activity.
The incident related to an evening in July 2016, when Beckwith and person A joined colleagues in the Harrow pub for post-work drinks near to Freshfields' London office. They later went back to her home and Beckwith stayed until the early hours of the morning.
The SRA had alleged that Ryan Beckwith kissed or attempted to kiss Person A in circumstances where he was in a position of seniority or authority. This was found unproven. The regulator also alleged that, a few weeks later, Beckwith initiated and/or engaged in sexual activity, where he ought to have known his conduct was unwelcome and that the other party was intoxicated to the extent her decision-making ability was impaired.
Beckwith had denied the allegations.
After a short break, the tribunal reopened this morning to hear mitigation and details about costs.
Alisdair Williamson QC, giving mitigation for Beckwith, told the tribunal there was a question whether his client would work in the profession again. He has not worked since December when he took a leave of absence.
Williamson said: 'He has been crushed by this process. He has damaged himself. He has damaged person A.' He added that Beckwith had previously been a 'shining example of the profession'.
Williamson asked the tribunal to impose a fine and if not that then a suspension. He asked that the panel take into account the time Beckwith has already spent not practising.
In a statement released following the tribunal's findings, Freshfields' senior partner Edward Braham confirmed Beckwith has been on indefinite leave from the firm for some time and had resigned as a partner with immediate effect.
He added: 'The firm takes all complaints extremely seriously. We want a culture that is welcoming and allows our people to flourish, and we work hard to achieve that. We are running a firm-wide programme to ensure our values and behaviours are consistently experienced across the firm, and I am confident that we will continue to achieve change where it is needed.'
A full written judgment detailing the reasons behind the finding and sanction is likely to be published in around seven weeks. Beckwith would have 21 days from the date of that publication to lodge an appeal.