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Freshfields partner fails to block SDT sexual misconduct tribunal

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) has thrown out an application by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer partner Ryan Beckwith to dismiss its prosecution following misconduct allegations made against him by a junior member of staff.

The move came to light today (19 June) on the second day of a case management hearing before the SDT. The case against the restructuring partner will now start on 30 September and run for two weeks, the SDT confirmed.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) in May published a list of allegations against Beckwith following a case management hearing the previous week in which Beckwith – who has been placed on indefinite leave by Freshfields – is alleged to have attempted to engage in sexual activity with an intoxicated junior member of staff in an abuse of seniority at an event organised by the firm.

The SRA referred the case to the SDT in late June last year. The allegations are as yet unproven and the SRA declined to comment at this time due to the ongoing hearing.

Freshfields senior partner Edward Braham said: ‘We note the decision of the tribunal and confirm he remains on indefinite leave.’

The allegations centre on two instances. Firstly, that Beckwith kissed or attempted to kiss Person A (the SDT has imposed reporting restrictions on their identity), over whom he was in a position of seniority, and secondly, that he initiated and/or engaged in sexual activity with the same person.

Both he and Person A were allegedly intoxicated at a celebratory event organised by the firm for its partners and employees, and the statement says that Beckwith knew or ought to have known that the Person A gave no indication the approach was wanted, and that he knew or ought to have known his conduct was an abuse of his seniority or authority.

With regards to the second instance, the SRA added that Beckwith knew or ought to have known that Person A was heavily intoxicated to the extent that she was vulnerable and/or her judgement was impaired; that she had not invited him to her home; and that he knew or ought to have known that she had not allowed him into her home with a view to sexual activity taking place.