A partner at magic circle firm Freshfields has told the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal he did not exploit a junior colleague with whom he stayed the night after post-work drinks.
Ryan Beckwith admitted kissing the female colleague in the pub and said he had taken a taxi back to her home in July 2016, but he denied that she was so drunk that he took advantage of her.
The pair had been in the pub in London with other colleagues for impromptu post-work drinks on a Friday evening, but the group dwindled until it was just Beckwith, his colleague known as person A, and another couple. Beckwith said person A had touched his inner arm in the pub and waited outside the toilets for him later in the evening, after which they kissed for several minutes.
The couple continued kissing outside until going back to her home, where he denied she fell after getting out the taxi and said she briefed him what to say in case her housemate discovered them.
Asked whether he was clear about person A’s ability to decide what should happen on that evening, Beckwith replied: ‘Absolutely clear’.
He added: ‘She was not too drunk to decide, I didn’t buy her too many drinks and I didn’t buy her more drinks than other people had.
‘We had been drinking and from my perspective my inhibitions had been lowered. [The allegations] shocked me. That is not something I would ever do. I don’t take advantage of anyone, male or female.
‘I am someone who helps people, I am someone who avoids using my physical presence to my advantage. I am someone who is a good person to other people. I don’t take advantage of people and I never have done. The idea I would ever take advantage of someone sexually was absolutely beyond anything I could ever contemplate. I would never do that.’
The married solicitor, who broke down in tears giving his evidence on Friday, said he was ‘devastated’ when allegations were brought.
The issue was subject to an internal firm investigation overseen by an external law firm, after which Beckwith was issued with a formal written warning. The document he signed to acknowledge this warning said his conduct had fallen below that expected of an employee, but did not say he had abused his authority. Independent advice to both Beckwith and Freshfields had seemed to confirm the issue did not need to be reported to the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
Asked to sum up his feelings now towards person A, who had already handed in her notice when the July incident happened, Beckwith said: ‘I take the view she was clearly very distressed by what happened. She has suffered some form of trauma as far as I can see. I am very sad about that because that is not the person I knew.
‘But I am also angry at times with what has been said and what has been said about other people I care about. I am beyond upset about what this has done to my wife who has not done anything wrong at any stage.’
The SRA alleges that Beckwith kissed or attempted to kiss Person A in circumstances where he was in a position of seniority or authority. It also alleges 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 she was vulnerable and her decision-making ability impaired. By doing so, it alleges that Beckwith failed to act with integrity and failed to behave in a way that maintains the trust the public places in him and the legal profession.
The hearing continues.
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‘She was not too drunk to decide’: Beckwith denies taking advantage