The case against a Freshfields partner facing charges over his conduct towards a junior colleague will go ahead, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal ruled this morning.
Chair Nicola Lucking dismissed the argument that evidence against Ryan Beckwith, a restructuring and insolvency expert with Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, is so flawed that the case should be dropped.
She also dismissed the argument that proceedings should be thrown out because Beckwith’s alleged conduct was not a matter for the regulator.
Lucking said that there is enough evidence for a case to be answered, adding ‘we do not think it is the case that the evidence is so imperfect that it is beyond redemption’.
On whether Beckwith’s conduct was a matter for the regulator, Lucking said: ‘That is a big issue that is important for the profession going forward. We do not think it is something that should be heard at a preliminary hearing.’
The Solicitors Regulation Authority alleges that Beckwith, who was married, kissed or attempted to kiss the junior staff member in a London pub in May 2016, in circumstances where he was in a position of seniority or authority.
He is also accused of initiating and/or engaging in sexual activity where he ought to have known his conduct was unwelcome and that the junior staff member was intoxicated to the extent she was vulnerable and her decision-making ability impaired.
Beckwith’s counsel Alisdair Williamson QC alleged yesterday that the complainant had been dishonest and colluded with another witness. He also claimed the SRA had contaminated evidence.
Following the decision to proceed, Williamson asked for guidance on how to pursue the disclosure of the complainant's medical and therapy notes. He suggested to the tribunal that a disclosure request could be made to her through the SRA, but Lucking said this was unlikely to be successful. It was agreed that the issue of disclosure (or non-disclosure) of records by the complainant would be something to address during her cross-examination.
The case is now set for a 10-day substantive hearing, likely to start in October. The complainant, who cannot be identified, is expected to give evidence for at least two days.