Nearly four months after the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal fined a magic circle partner accused of sexual misconduct £35,000, the full reasons for its decision have been revealed.
In a judgment dated 30 January but published today, the tribunal found that Ryan Beckwith, who was a partner at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, did not pose a future risk to the profession’s reputation. Neither would his misconduct shake the public’s perception of his ability to properly represent their concerns if he were to be instructed.
The proven findings related to an incident in July 2016, when Beckwith and a junior female colleague, referred to as 'Person A', joined colleagues in a 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 tribunal found that Beckwith’s conduct was ‘spontaneous’ and he was ‘directly in control notwithstanding his level of intoxication… He was a respected partner in the firm and had responsibility for his junior colleagues. As such, he owed his junior colleagues a duty of care’.
The tribunal said Beckwith’s conduct ‘caused harm to the reputation of the profession' and ‘significant harm’ to Person A. However, his conduct was caused by a ‘lapse in his judgement that was highly unlikely to be repeated’.
The tribunal said: 'He had attended a number of courses that had been recommended by the firm. The tribunal did not find that the respondent posed a future risk to the public. There had been no clients involved and there was no suggestion that the work of the respondent was anything other than highly competent. Nor did it consider that the respondent posed a future risk to the reputation of the profession. The respondent’s misconduct would not shake the public’s perception of his ability to properly represent their concerns were he to be instructed.
'This was a one-off incident where there was no suggestion that he had coerced or manipulated Person A.’
The tribunal said that, in the circumstances, and given the ‘limited nature’ of its findings, a financial penalty was the appropriate and proportionate sanction.
The SRA had claimed costs of £343,957. However, the tribunal reduced this to £200,000 ‘to take account of the limited hearing time and to substantially reduce the fees claimed for junior counsel’.
Beckwith, admitted in 2004, resigned from Freshfields after the tribunal announced its decision.