A leading criminal law solicitor convicted of sexually assaulting an 18-year-old woman while drunk in Newcastle city centre on New Year’s Eve has been fined by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT).
The tribunal accepted that Ravi Khosla’s actions were an “isolated incident” in respect of which he had shown “significant insight, remorse and apology”.
It said the fact that he “absented himself from the family home” to allow his family to decide how they wanted to move forward – they have since reconciled – and also resigned as a director of Newcastle firm Kenneth M Barrow & Co, “was greatly to his credit”.
But the SDT acknowledged too that the harm caused to the woman, ‘Person A’, was “substantial”.
Mr Khosla was waiting at a taxi rank in the early hours of 31 December 2017. He admitted he was drunk.
He had a short conversation with Person A, whose witness statement recounted that he “put his hand around my hips, placed it on my bottom cheek where he then squeezed hard then pulled me forcefully towards him.
“He had his other hand on my right cheek which he used to pull my face towards him. He then forcefully pushed his face into mine and kissed me. He was trying to kiss me with an open mouth but I was keeping my mouth closed and trying to push him away. I told him ‘no’.”
Person A said she had felt “dirty and shocked” and scared by Mr Khosla’s persistence.
“I have only just turned 18 and this was one of my first nights out. This isn’t what I thought a night out would be like as I have always felt safe previously. This will make me much more vigilant and wary on future nights out.”
Person A reported the incident to the police the same evening and Mr Khosla was arrested. In interview, he denied the allegation of sexual assault and asserted that any sexual encounter must have been consensual.
He pleaded not guilty at the magistrates’ court as he had been advised to seek a Crown Court trial. In March 2019, he pleaded guilty at Leeds Crown Court to one count of sexual assault.
He was sentenced to a community sentence including an unpaid work element of 120 hours, which the judge said should be completed within 11 months.
A transcript of the trial was not available because of a fault with the court’s recording equipment, but Mr Khosla’s counsel, Toby Hedworth QC, confirmed that the judge specified completing the community service within 11 months so as to avoid Mr Khosla having to join the sex offenders’ register.
Mr Hedworth said the judge did not consider that the solicitor presented a continued risk to the public, that the offence was entirely out of character and that he was impressed by what he described as not only Mr Khosla’s good character but also “your positive character and achievements”.
The judge also referred to the “unconscionable” 14-month delay in the proceedings being commenced and the consequent strain of the case hanging over Mr Khosla.
Mr Khosla, 42, qualified in 2004 and headed up the firm’s criminal department, specialising in serious crime and fraud, and was also the training principal. He resigned the week before his trial but continued to work with it on a consultancy basis.
His counsel before the tribunal, Geoffrey Williams QC, described what had happened as a “two-minute event in an otherwise unblemished record both professionally and personally”.
He said Mr Khosla was not used to drinking regularly or to excess. At one point in the evening he became detached from his friends and went to the taxi rank.
Mr Williams QC said his intoxication was an explanation of, not a defence to, what Mr Khosla had done. He admitted that he had shown a lack of integrity and had not upheld public trust in the profession.
His character evidence included his former partner, Kenneth Barrow, and an unsolicited statement from the immediate past chair of the Criminal Bar Association, Caroline Goodwin QC. She said his conduct was “utterly out of character from everything I know about him”
In deciding on sanction, the tribunal described the character references as “extraordinarily compelling and extremely impressive”.
It was “abundantly clear” that Mr Khosla was “a highly respected and highly competent criminal lawyer”.
The SDT concluded: “Weighing all of the attendant factors in the balance, the tribunal concluded that the misconduct found was very serious and could not be addressed by making no order or imposing a reprimand on the respondent.”
It decided that a fine of £17,500 “appropriately marked the severity of the misconduct found both in respect of public protection as well as protection of the reputation to the legal profession”.
It added that Mr Khosla did not pose a risk to the public and “there was minimal, if any, risk of repetition”.
Mr Khosla was also ordered to pay costs of £3,000.