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Beckwith takes SDT misconduct decision to High Court appeal

Former Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer partner Ryan Beckwith has filed a High Court appeal against the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal’s (SDT) finding against him in a case of sexual misconduct.

The appeal follows last October’s high-profile judgment that Beckwith knew or ought to have known that the junior member of staff he had sexual activity with was intoxicated and her judgement impaired and that he knew or ought to have known that his conduct was inappropriate

Nick Brett, Beckwith’s solicitor at Brett Wilson, confirmed the appeal in a statement: ‘On Wednesday 19 February 2020, Mr Beckwith filed grounds to appeal against the decision of the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal dated 30 January 2020 and it would not be appropriate to comment further pending the hearing in the High Court which will be listed in due course.’

Beckwith’s appeal comes after the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), which brought the case to the Tribunal for prosecution in June 2018, earlier this week said it would not be appealing the sanctions handed down of a £35,000 fine and an order to pay legal costs of £200,000.

Earlier this month, the SDT released its written judgement explaining that the controversial decision to fine instead of ban Beckwith was because his misconduct was ‘a lapse in his judgement’ and ‘unlikely to be repeated’.

In the judgement, the SDT said that Beckwith’s misconduct did not pose a future risk to the public and that: ‘There had been no clients involved and there was no suggestion that the work of the respondent was anything other than highly competent. Nor did it consider that the respondent posed a future risk to the reputation of the profession,’ the judgment added.

The sanctions were made in light of the tribunal’s decision that ‘this was a one-off incident where there was no suggestion that he [Beckwith] had coerced or manipulated Person A [the junior lawyer]. It was not the applicant’s case that the respondent had deliberately plied Person A with drink with a view to getting her into such an intoxicated state that she would then engage in sexual activity.’

‘Nor was it the case that he had used his position of seniority and authority to engineer the sexual encounter,’ the decision added.

The tribunal found that, although Beckwith had ‘engaged in inappropriate conduct in circumstances where his judgement had been affected by the amount of alcohol he had consumed,’ it did not find that the circumstances of the case were such that a restriction order was necessary in order to protect the public.