Suspension for senior partner who had sex in the office

SDT: Power imbalance

A male senior partner found guilty of multiple instances of sexual misconduct in the office with junior female staff – including having sex with one on a desk – has been suspended for two years.

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) said that, despite evidence suggesting that health conditions may have contributed to what he did, Jasvinder Singh Gill’s conduct “could only be viewed as extremely concerning and very serious”.

The SDT approved a statement of agreed facts and outcome between the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and Mr Gill, who qualified in 1999 and was aged between 41 and 46 years at the time of these events.

He was described on the unnamed firm’s website as a senior partner “with overall responsibility for the day to day management of the firm and for ensuring high levels of client satisfaction”.

He admitted that, in about October 2015, he initiated a sexual relationship with staff member ‘Person A’ after inviting her out to a pub lunch and then asking her to come to his office and kissing her on the lips.

Between April 2019 and October 2020, Mr Gill initiated a sexual relationship with Person C “by leaning in and initiating a kiss on the lips whilst in the office with the door closed”, and then, “on a consensual basis, in the office, engaging in kissing on several occasions and behaving in a flirtatious way with physical touching and, on one occasion, putting his hand on her knee during a kiss, and taking part in consensual sexual intercourse with her on the desk on two occasions”.

Further, on various dates between October 2015 and September 2020, Mr Gill behaved “inappropriately” towards female employees, including making comments about their clothes – such as telling one that there was a “preferred” office dress code of skirts, rather than trousers, and high heels – and going into Person A’s room, which she shared with Person B, and stroking her hair and giving her a shoulder massage, in the presence of Person B.

He also admitted that, in November 2019, prior to a work-related event in Bristol, he went to his hotel bedroom with Person B to order a takeaway pizza. He then changed into “loungewear” in the bathroom and joined Person B, who was sitting on the bed, and asked if she wanted an alcoholic drink with her pizza.

It was accepted that, while this was inappropriate, it was not sexually motivated.

Mr Gill agreed that the “inherent power imbalance between himself, as the senior partner of the firm and a solicitor in his forties, and each of them, as more junior and younger colleagues, may have prevented them from refusing to engage with him and/or from refusing his requests”.

The agreed outcome indicated that the SRA had more allegations but decided not to pursue them as it was having difficulties in ensuring the attendance of three of its witnesses, including Person C.

The tribunal said it was “not an arbiter of morals and human frailty”, describing Mr Gill as “an experienced and well-regarded solicitor who had built a thriving business, yet, admittedly, he had conducted himself towards more junior staff in a way which was wrong and inappropriate…

“His motivation had been a sexual one and his conduct placed the female employees who he had picked upon with the no doubt unsettling dilemma that rebuffing him would or could count against them in their continuing employment within the firm and the resultant difficulties of leaving the firm and seeking new employment.”

Notwithstanding the medical evidence – which was redacted – “the tribunal considered that a solicitor acting with integrity, and occupying the position the respondent did within the firm, would have realised that relationships brought about by the power imbalance, clearly manifest here, was totally unacceptable within the professional environment of the workplace and deeply unsettling for the staff in general, and female staff in particular”.

“Nothing less” than a suspension was the appropriate sanction, it said, with Mr Gill’s admissions, although made at a late stage, viewed as him “reaching a level of insight on his conduct, from which change could come”.

The SDT imposed conditions on Mr Gill’s return to practice. These require that, before the expiry of his suspension and thereafter every time he lodges his annual application for a practising certificate, he must provide a fresh medical report confirming that is continuing to receive and engage with any treatment recommended and continuing to respond positively to it, and that it identify any risks to employees, partners, clients, third parties or the public.

Mr Gill also agreed to pay the SRA costs of £85,501.

    Readers Comments

  • Cheeky Lawyer says:

    More importantly, this was a flagrant breach of the then Covid regulations, and I can only assume another £85k is due shortly?

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