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SRA releases full allegations against Freshfields partner Beckwith

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has today (3 May) published the full list of its allegations against Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer partner Ryan Beckwith.

In the published allegations, which follow a case management hearing at the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) last week, 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 2018. The allegations are as yet unproven, with last week’s case management hearing adjourned until 17 June. The SRA said it would not comment further at this time due to the proceedings being live.

The allegations focus on two instances (and can be read here): 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 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 adds 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.

In a statement, Freshfields’ senior partner Edward Braham said:  ‘A partner of the firm is the subject of Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (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.’

He added: ‘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.’

Beckwith has instructed criminal law partner Nick Brett of Brett Wilson, while the SRA is being represented by Capsticks partner Daniel Purcell. Beckwith was one of five promoted in the City to partner in 2012 as part of a 20-strong round.