A veteran male solicitor who repeatedly touched a female colleague’s bottom and made a joke in the office about the Ku Klux Klan has been allowed to stay in practice.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal today found all allegations of misconduct proven against Samuel Maurice Charkham, admitted in 1977, and ordered that he pay a fine of £30,000.
The tribunal has heard this week that Charkham touched the bottom of a junior colleague, referred to as person A, on 18 occasions over four years whilst they worked together at London firm Simkins LLP, including at office functions and whilst she made tea in the office. He was also found to have touched another female colleague on the backside, claiming in his defence it was actually a ‘playful kick’.
Charkham was also found to have told a racist joke at a work Christmas party and worn a white A4 envelope on his head while in the office, annuncing he was in the Ku Klux Klan. During the second incident, he walked with the item on his head towards person A, who is black, while she was at her desk.
The tribunal has heard this week that Charkham admitted to having an ‘old fashioned’ sense of humour and that he had told a joke with the punchline ‘tycoon’, but he denied this was racial harassment. He denied ever touching person A and repeatedly told the tribunal these allegations were false.
His representative, Jonathan Goodwin, read a list of positive character references in mitigation, praising his ‘professionalism and capacity to deal with people’.
Goodwin said the misconduct finding ‘does not affect his ability to practise’ and that Charkham wished to continue as a solicitor. He added: ‘This is a person of integrity who is trustworthy and of good character. The references individually and collectively are positive and compelling and describe the real person sitting before you.’
In fining Charkham, the tribunal said solicitors should ‘lead by example’ and that his failures in this respect were ‘very serious and reflected in the sanction’. The full reasons for its judgment will be published in around seven weeks. Charkham, 68, must also pay £21,000 in costs.