A partner at magic circle firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer today sought to have charges relating to alleged sexual contact with a more junior member of staff after a drinks event dismissed as an abuse of process. 

At a day-long case management hearing the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) heard that Ryan Beckwith, admitted in 2004, had been buying drinks for colleagues before he shared a taxi with his junior colleague, identified as 'person A', to her home. 

The full list of charges has not been published but the Solicitors Regulation Authority alleges sexual contact took place between the pair when the complainant was not in a position to consent. The SRA alleges that Beckwith's conduct was unbecoming of a solicitor and that Beckwith misused his position of power.

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.

Williamson challenged evidence submitted by a former SRA investigations lead, Hazel Padmore. This included a transcript of an interview with a witness claiming that ‘person A’ had drunk ‘six or seven glasses of wine and Jaegerbombs later’.

Williamson drew attention to another witness statement claiming that ‘person A’ would ‘have been all right’ after drinking that amount.

He told the tribunal that 'person A’ had already resigned from the firm and had never referred to Beckwith’s senior position in any of her complaints. Williamson told the tribunal that  ‘person A’ had referred to the incident to Beckwith and said: ‘you’re my married boss, it’s so cliche’.

The case management hearing will continue in June. A substantive hearing is scheduled for September.