A partner at magic circle firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer is to face a disciplinary tribunal over his sexual conduct in relation to a more junior female member of staff.
Ryan Beckwith, a restructuring and insolvency lawyer, has been charged with abusing his position of seniority or authority.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal has ruled that there is a case to answer in relation to two charges, according to detailed published by the Solicitors Regulation Authority today.
These are that Mr Beckwith “kissed or attempted to kiss Person A” in circumstances in which: he was in a position of seniority and/or authority over her; both were intoxicated; the incident took place at a “celebratory event organised by the firm for its partners and employees”, and he knew or ought to have known that Person A had given no indication that such conduct was wanted.
The second charge states that he “initiated and/or engaged in sexual activity with Person A” in similar circumstances, including that he knew or ought to have known that:
- From Person A’s reaction to the first incident that his conduct then “had not been invited and was unwelcome”;
- Person A was heavily intoxicated “to the extent that she was vulnerable and/or her judgment and decision-making ability was impaired”;
- Person A had not invited him to her home; and
- Person A had not allowed him into her home with a view to sexual activity taking place; and/or
In relation to both charges, the regulator says Mr Beckwith “knew or ought to have known that his conduct was an abuse of his position of seniority or authority and/or inappropriate”.
According to media reports of a case management hearing earlier this week, Mr Beckwith has denied all the allegations and said the incident was a “mutual mistake”.
The Times reported that the pair shared a taxi home from the event, and that woman said she was surprised when he also got out of the taxi when it reached her home.
He allegedly followed her inside after asking if he could use the lavatory. The woman later had “some recollection of waking up” unclothed. She was said to have told him: “You’re married, this shouldn’t have happened.”
Alisdair Williamson QC, for Mr Beckwith, reportedly told the tribunal: “People get drunk, wake up and regret it.”
Freshfields senior partner Edward Braham 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.”