The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal has suspended a solicitor who sexually harassed a junior colleague and told her he wanted to ‘f***’ her in two unwanted text messages.
Gerard John Scott, who was a solicitor in the criminal department of Ben Hoare Bell LLP in Sunderland at the time, was at an after-work event with an individual identified as ‘Person A’ when the first incident took place. According to the Solicitors Regulation Authority, Scott been drinking heavily and, during the course of the evening, put his arm around Person A’s shoulder; and/or put his arm around her waist; and/or lifted up her dress on one or more occasions; and/or put his hand inside her dress; and/or put his hand inside her underwear on one or more occasions.
Shortly after midnight, Scott texted Person A, stating ‘I would like to f*** you’. The respondent admitted the allegations.
On another occasion several months later Scott, who was recently married, reportedly touched Person A’s knee and took her hand and would not let go.
According to Person A, Scott was talking about his wedding and ‘grasped my hand from across the table and made a comment along the lines of “you’ll be at my next wedding”’. When Scott left he was allegedly ‘drunk and unable to talk’. He later texted Person A saying ‘Want to f*** you why. I want to f*** you’.
Scott admitted the allegations. According to Person A, who subsequently suffered anxiety attacks and had to take medication, her personality ‘completely changed’ and she ‘was frightened to be at home’ in case Scott came round.
In mitigation, Scott’s counsel said the respondent had ‘totally abstained from drinking alcohol since November 2017’. He also noted the effect drinking alcohol could have on the respondent’s prescribed medication. Scott said he was ‘deeply sorry’ for his conduct and said he had suffered from ‘work related stresses’. He confirmed that he was no longer practising as a solicitor and stated that he had no intention to return to the profession.
The SDT said: ‘The tribunal found the respondent to be a genuine and credible witness. He was contrite, remorseful, candid and apologetic for his behaviour.’ It added that Scott was ‘directly responsible for his behaviour’ but it ‘did not consider that it was necessary to permanently remove the respondent from the roll and was of the view that a strike off would be a disproportionate sanction, taking into account the specific mitigation in this case’.
The tribunal ordered for Scott to be suspended for 18 months and to pay costs of £7,837.