A former trainee solicitor who got drunk and inappropriately touched colleagues during a Christmas party has been fined £2,000. Oliver Conway, who was based at the Exeter office of national firm Ashfords LLP at the time, had attended an after-work meal in December 2019 and went on with some colleagues to a nightclub.
The SRA said that during the course of the evening Conway was drunk and offered one colleague a drink, saying he had ‘roofied it’ before slapping them on the bottom. The word ‘roofie’ was a reference to the slang term for a date-rape drug, although there was no suggestion that Conway spiked anyone’s drink.
Later in the evening at the same venue, Conway squeezed another colleague’s bottom, resulting in her pushing him away and telling him ‘don’t do that’. He then grabbed her around the waist and dragged her away from a conversation she was having and repeatedly pulled her by the arm and put his hands around her waist and hips.
The SRA said that before the Christmas meal, the firm had issued a specific warning to all staff about the need to maintain professional standards at events over the festive period. Following an internal investigation, Conway was dismissed. He subsequently reported his conduct to the SRA.
The former trainee stated that he was so drunk he could not remember the events in question, but he accepted that the behaviour described must have taken place. He fully accepted his actions were inappropriate and that the way he conducted himself was wrong.
The SRA accepted his remorse and insight into the misconduct and that he acted against his own morals and normal character, backed up by character references. Conway had assured the regulator this was a one-off and he was embarrassed and humiliated by his behaviour.
The SRA said it was no mitigation that Conway was drunk and that he was responsible for his own behaviour. A fine was deemed appropriate to uphold public confidence in the profession. Conway also agreed to pay £600 costs.