The Solicitors Regulation Authority has published allegations against a partner at magic circle firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer who it claims engaged in ‘sexual activity’ with a junior member of staff while her decision-making was ‘impaired’.
In a notice published today the SRA reveals several allegations against Ryan Beckwith over his alleged conduct during and after a ‘celebratory event’ for partners and employees.
The allegations, which are unproven, include that Beckwith attempted to kiss and later ‘initiated and/or engaged in’ sexual activity with the employee, referred to as ‘person A’. The allegations stipulate that Beckwith ought to have known by ‘person A’s’ reaction to the kissing incident that his later conduct was not invited.
The allegations add that Beckwith ought to have known that ‘person A’ was heavily intoxicated to the extent that she was vulnerable and/or her judgment and decision-making ability was impaired and that he ought to have known that ‘person A’ had not invited him to her home with a view to sexual activity taking place. The SRA also alleges that Beckwith should have known his actions were an abuse of his position of seniority or authority.
A case management hearing at the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal began last week. Counsel for Beckwith, Alisdair Williamson QC, argued that the proceedings are an abuse of process and that the charges against Beckwith are outside the SRA’s jurisdiction. The hearing will resume next month.
Edward Braham, senior partner at Freshfields, said: ‘A partner of the firm is the subject of SDT proceedings and is on indefinite leave. Given the ongoing proceedings, to which we are not a party, it would be inappropriate to comment further on this case.
‘The firm takes all complaints extremely seriously. When this complaint was reported to us we instructed an external law firm to conduct a thorough investigation and we took actions in the light of the report’s findings. We want a culture that is welcoming and allows our people to flourish, and we work hard to achieve that. We are running a firm-wide programme to ensure our values and behaviours are consistently experienced across the firm, and I am confident that we will continue to achieve change where it is needed.’