The 'wheels came off' for a lawyer at the centre of allegations against a senior colleague at magic circle firm Freshfields, her former flatmate has told the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal. Person A's friend, known as 'Witness B', was questioned on day four of a hearing of charges against Ryan Beckwith.
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.
Beckwith denies the allegations.
The tribunal heard that on the day of the second alleged incident, Witness B went to bed at around 10pm. She wore earplugs and said 'there would have to have been a real kerfuffle for me to wake up'. She woke up around 7.30am the next day, went to the bathroom and noticed the toilet seat was up, which she thought was 'very odd'.
Witness B went to wake Person A up. 'Her bed did not have sheets which was really odd. She was asleep. Generally it would be her bossing me around to wake up. She's a morning person and she likes to be prepared for things... She seemed very groggy and quite confused. I just thought that could be from sleeping. I did not think anything sinister.'
Later that day, according to Witness B, Person A told her that Beckwith had been at the flat. 'She was trying really hard to be cheerful for everyone else but I know her really well and I could see she was struggling to focus on the people in front of her,' Witness B told the tribunal. She said that Person A had told her she 'felt a bit awkward' when Beckwith suggested they share a taxi following an evening drinking at a City pub with colleagues.
Asked about what she had been told about the taxi journey, Witness B said: 'This is where the blackout comes in. But she remembers waking up. It's obvious she fell asleep for some of the journey. She woke up and her jeans were undone, she had taken her shoes off, which seemed that had distressed her a lot. She talked about that a lot. Who gets into a car and undoes their trousers? She kept bringing it up as this very clear memory she had... She's not a sloppy person, she's a together person. That's really unusual behaviour.'
Discussing whether Person A had sex with Beckwith or not, Witness B said her flatmate could not find a used condom or condom wrapper. 'Because she had these periods she could not remember anything at all, she could not be absolutely sure. She did not think they had sex but she could not be absolutely sure. To not have that certainty was agonising for her at the time. We talked a lot about whether she needed a contraceptive pill or whether she should have an SDT test at a clinic. We talked about that a lot.'
Asked whether Person A said anything about making a complaint. Witness B said: 'We did not talk about the police... She seemed very concerned the fact she had been drinking would discredit her.'
Witness B said her big concern at the time was keeping her friend calm. 'In the week that followed [after the second incident] she was an absolute wreck. So much of her energy went onto being normal at work that when she came home the wheels came off. She was not suicidal but she needed serious care and attention every evening.'
Alisdair Williamson QC, for Beckwith, questioned Witness B on how much alcohol Person A drank. Witness B said: 'Six or seven glasses is a lot for her...She had no dinner, there were Jagerbombs as well.'
Asked whether Person A had a high alcohol tolerance, Witness B said: 'What's a high alcohol tolerance? She's got a high alcohol tolerance but I would say I have an exceptionally low one.'
The hearing continues, with Beckwith due to give evidence today.