Short suspension for junior solicitor who groped colleague

SDT: Solicitor was sacked for conduct at party

A male solicitor who groped and propositioned a female colleague at his firm’s Christmas party has been suspended for three months.

Frederick William Adams lost his job at Plexus Law as a result of what he did and told the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) that he had misread the signals from ‘Person A’ while drunk.

Mr Adams had worked at Plexus since 2011 and qualified in the Manchester office in 2016. The firm’s managing partner had warned staff about their behaviour ahead of the 2019 Christmas party, where Mr Adams and Person A had sat at the same table for dinner with five others.

The tribunal heard that, during the socialising and dancing afterwards, Mr Adams kept grabbing her backside and touched the front of her thigh – two colleagues had seen this and one was trying to get someone to stand between them.

As she was leaving the party around 1am, Mr Adams came up to her and said: “I would really like to fuck you, would you like to fuck me?” She relayed this to one of her colleagues.

Person A said she was “stunned” and “shocked” by this. It made her feel “extremely uncomfortable at the possibility that I might see him again at work, even though I had not done anything wrong”.

Mr Adams denied the allegations at first on the basis that he had no recollection of what he had done and because it was “completely out of character for me”.

Initially, he suggested that CCTV footage did not appear to “reflect the behaviour of someone who felt uncomfortable in Mr Adams presence”; rather, it indicated that Person A was “clearly flirting with him”.

But he then said that, in his drunken state, he likely misinterpreted his “interactions” with Person A and did not seek to excuse his behaviour. Before the tribunal, he unequivocally accepted the allegations in their entirety, apologising to Person A.

In his ‘reflective statement’, Mr Adams set out the steps he had taken “by reading in and attending courses in relation to sexual harassment, his previously distorted relationship with alcohol (which he had relied upon to boost confidence but refrained from doing so since the incident), the fact that he no longer consumes alcohol at work events and the painful lessons learnt”.

He submitted nine testimonials speaking to his character, one of which was from his current law firm employer.

The tribunal determined that Mr Adams misconduct was sexually motivated but accepted that it was borne out of intoxication, for which he was to blame.

It represented a single incident of brief duration in the context of a previously unblemished career.

The SDT: “Sexual misconduct of any nature was extremely serious such that due consideration should be given to the solicitors’ suitability to continue to practice. The tribunal assessed the nature of the sexual misconduct and in so doing determined that it was not at the highest end of the spectrum.”

A strike-off was not required but a suspension was “proportionate and appropriate to meet the overarching public interest”.

The SDT halved the SRA’s £20,000 costs claim because of a near two-and-a-half-year delay in it supplying Mr Adams with the CCTV evidence, which “would have impacted upon Mr Adams’ response to the allegations, the nature of his admissions and the necessity (or otherwise) of requiring Person A to prepare a supplementary statement”.

    Readers Comments

  • Anon says:

    The firm that hired him now (based in manchester) referred to him as a “safe pair of hands”

    No joke

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