Thursday 14 January 2021 1:03 pm

SRA backs down on high profile sexual misconduct case

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has decided not to appeal a High Court ruling that followed a high-profile case featuring jagerbombs, a magic circle law firm and alleged sexual misconduct.

The SRA will not appeal a High Court ruling in favour of an ex-Freshfields partner who allegedly took advantage of a junior colleague. 

The SRA fined Ryan Beckwith £35,000 in October 2019 and ordered him to pay costs of £200,000 after a Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal found he had failed to act with integrity in his relationship with a junior colleague. But the finding was overturned by the High Court in November 2020.   

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SRA chair Anna Bradley said the decision not to appeal the judgment “follows careful consideration of the judgment, as well as advice from leading counsel on the grounds for doing so.”

“In overturning the Tribunal’s decision, the court expressly limited itself to the circumstances of this case,” she said. 

Bradley said the SRA’s case did not depend on consent, but rather that the circumstances indicated vulnerability and abuse of a position of seniority and authority.

“I want to emphasise that allegations of sexual misconduct and sexual harassment are matters that we take very seriously and will continue to act upon,” Bradley added.

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What happened?

At the time of the indiscretion Beckwith was a partner and insolvency specialist at magic circle law firm Freshfields.  

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According to the Independent, Beckwith, along with a woman who has been referred to as ‘Person A’, finished an evening out with jagerbombs at the Harrow pub opposite their office on Fleet Street. Person A said she had already drunk two bottles of wine on an empty stomach. 

The following day Beckwith received an email from the woman, who has since left Freshfields, that accused him of taking advantage of her. It added: “You bought me too many drinks, more than most people could handle.” 

Beckwith, who described her account as a “complete fabrication”, left the young woman’s flat after a call from his wife at 4am. Person A told a hearing she had woken up to find her boss telling her she had “nice tits” and asking her flatmate for a condom. 

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The Independent said it was also alleged that he gave her an “unwanted” kiss after a different work event in May of the same year in Oxfordshire. But the alleged kiss on the head, a separate allegation, was found not proved.

Freshfields declined to comment.

City A.M. has contacted Beckwith’s lawyer.