A solicitor who sang a song and made gestures that were sexualised in nature in front of a colleague following a Christmas lunch has been fined £23,000.

The solicitor, who cannot be named and is referred to as Respondent AC, was a partner of the firm when Person A joined as a trainee. They were based in different offices in London. AC was four years older than Person A but ‘accepted that, given their respective roles with the firm, there was a power imbalance in his favour’.

Both attended the firm’s Christmas lunch in 2017 followed by drinks at a second venue. While there, Person A recorded a video which showed AC singing a song, of about six seconds in length, about Person A’s genitals and making gestures including ‘cupping his right hand and moving it twice in front of his genitals’.

Person A submitted a formal complaint to the firm in June 2019 with a number of grievances including the video.

In a 17-page judgment the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal states that it had to determine whether AC’s misconduct’ was precipitated by an invitation from Person A to “do something outrageous” or words to that effect.’

The tribunal said it was ‘difficult’ to reconcile Person A’s evidence that she started recording shortly before AC started to sing ‘with the fact that the offending video started as soon as Respondent AC started singing Person’s A’s name, the offending video ended as soon as Respondent AC concluded singing and the multimedia forensic scientist’s unchallenged expert evidence was that the video had been trimmed’.

As a result, the 'tribunal could not be satisfied…that it was more likely than not that Respondent AC launched into the offending song unprovoked and absent any interaction with Person A ’. It concluded that AC was ‘motivated to behave in the manner that he did following an express “invitation” from person A’.

It added: ‘His misconduct was spontaneous and reactive to the same. However, the words used, the gestures that elected to deploy, the fact that he was a partner, at a work event, with colleagues present and in a public setting represented a grave breach of his position of trust.'

The fact that it was 'highly likely that Respondent AC was intoxicated did not vitiate the direct control that Respondent AC had in response to the “invitation” to say something “naughty/outrageous”'.

It accepted that AC did not intend to cause harm but ‘it was eminently foreseeable that his misconduct would do so’ and assessed the level of misconduct as ‘very serious’.

The SDT found proved the allegation that, while in practice as a solicitor, AC sang a song in front of and/or directed at Person A and made gestures which accompanied the words used, which were sexualised in nature. AC was found to have been in breach of Principle 2, 6, and 9 of the SRA Principles. 

As well as the £23,000 fine, AC was ordered to pay costs of £22,800.