A Freshfields partner accused of sexual misconduct has claimed that ‘nothing would have happened’ had his junior colleague not instigated physical contact.
Ryan Beckwith, a 41-year-old restructuring and insolvency expert, told the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal that Person A, whose identity is protected, stroked the inside of his arm at an after-work event and waited for him downstairs in a pub.
Cross-examined by Riel Karmy-Jones QC, counsel for the Solicitors Regulation Authority, Beckwith said: ‘[Person A] instigated the physical contact between us. Nothing would have happened between us if she hadn’t touched my arm and followed me to the loo’.
He said that after Person A touched his arm at the bar, she waited downstairs for him in the Harrow, a City pub. ‘My best guess is I went down to the loo and she followed me down. When I came out of the loo she was waiting for me,’ Beckwith said.
According to Beckwith, ‘we then leant into each other and kissed’. The pair allegedly kissed in the pub for several minutes and continued to kiss on the kerb opposite Freshfields’ offices before taking a taxi together back to Person A’s flat. Riel Karmy-Jones said Person A did not accept this version of events.
Questioned on how much he had had to drink on the night of the alleged incident, Beckwith said: ‘I was drunk enough to do something extremely stupid that I would regret for the rest of my life… But I was in control of my cognitive functions.’
Asked whether he accepted that Person A was extremely drunk and seriously impaired Beckwith said he did not. ‘Six glasses of wine over seven hours doesn’t strike me as a significant amount. She was not impaired in the way you suggested.’
He added: ‘I don’t think there was a distinction between how drunk either of us were.’
Beckwith also denied trying to kiss Person A on the lips a few months earlier. He said he ‘may have held back kissing her on the head’ but likened kissing someone’s head to ‘patting them on the back’. ‘I have kissed partners on the head on nights out before,’ he said.
The SDT panel asked Beckwith whether Freshfields had a drinking culture. He said: ‘On Thursday or Friday drinking is something that would happen fairly frequently. Partners were expected to come along and pay for those drinks… If that is drinking culture I’m struggling with it because most City organisations have a similar approach’. He denied Person A’s claim that associates would regularly come into work hungover.
Beckwith accepted that his behaviour ‘fell well below the standards of partner’ and said ‘I shouldn’t have done what I did from the perspective of my marriage’.
The hearing continues.