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City lawyer accused of misconduct over sexual activity with colleague can continue practising

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Ryan Beckwith resigned from his law firm after a disciplinary panel ruled he should have known better that to engage with the 'exceptionally drunk' woman

Ryan Beckwith resigned from his law firm after a disciplinary panel ruled he should have known better that to engage with the ‘exceptionally drunk’ woman

A married senior partner at one of the City’s ‘Magic Circle’ of law firms has today been left with a £235,000 bill after having sex with a junior colleague following a night out.

Ryan Beckwith sensationally resigned from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP after a disciplinary panel ruled he should have known better than to engage with the ‘exceptionally drunk’ woman.

He was today fined £35,000 and ordered to pay some £200,000 in court costs. 

The panel ruled Beckwith, a restructuring and insolvency specialist, could continue to practising law but he quit his job after the ruling. 

The pair had enjoyed an evening with colleagues in 2016 where the woman says she was plied with jaegerbombs and bottles of wine on an empty stomach. 

The 20-year-old alleged the married father-of-one, 41, then ‘tricked his way’ into her flat before she woke up to find Beckwith on her bed, naked from the waist down.   

The unnamed junior lawyer, known as Person A, initially did not report the incident, either to the firm or to authorities. 

But Beckwith received an email from her in November which accused him of taking advantage of her.

It added: ‘You bought me too many drinks, more than most people could handle.’ 

Beckwith, who described her account as a ‘complete fabrication,’ left the young woman’s flat after a call from his unsuspecting wife at 4am. 

Legal experts said the case would have been rejected ‘only a few years ago’ by the Solicitors Regulation Authority but had been taken seriously because of the ‘Me Too’ movement. 

The panel ruled Beckwith (pictured outside the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal in London on October 4), could continue to practising law but he quit his job after the ruling

The panel ruled Beckwith (pictured outside the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal in London on October 4), could continue to practising law but he quit his job after the ruling

Beckwith denied breaching professional standards of failing to act with integrity and behaviour that brings his profession into disrepute.

He claimed the night they spent together at her flat was ‘a consensual sexual encounter between two adults.’ 

It was also alleged that he gave her an ‘unwanted’ kiss following an earlier alcohol-fuelled work event at Raymond Blanc’s Michelin-starred Oxfordshire restaurant – a claim which was not upheld. 

The tribunal did not make a finding on the question of whether the woman consented as she was unable to recall whether they actually had sex and never went to the police. 

Beckwith has not been convicted of any offences but the panel found he engaged in sexual activity, where he ought to have known the woman was too drunk to make a proper decision about sexual activity.

Beckwith hugged and kissed his wife after he was fined £35,000 and ordered to pay £200,000 costs

Beckwith hugged and kissed his wife after he was fined £35,000 and ordered to pay £200,000 costs

He hugged and kissed his wife, both of whom were in tears, after he was fined £35,000 and ordered to pay £200,000 costs. 

Panel chair Nicola Lucking ruled Beckwith should not be struck off and ordered to pay a fine instead.  

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His defence team sought to have the case, brought by the Solicitors’ Regulatory Authority, thrown out due to a lack of evidence.

But the tribunal panel ruled there was enough evidence for the case to proceed.   

Alisdair Williamson QC, representing Mr Beckwith, said: ‘At the moment all is dust and bleak for Mr Beckwith. He is a man who will bear this mark forever, he is a man, who other than this blemish, was a shining example to the profession.’

Mr Williamson told the hearing Person A’s story changed after she underwent therapy.  

He paraphrased the original position of Person A which said: ‘We both f****d up, you are my married boss, what a cliche.’ 

Person A claimed a ‘very respected’ female senior lawyer at the firm told her not to speak about the incident.

She added: ‘I felt very on my own and those feeling of self blame and self hatred just got worse.’

Beckwith told the panel that he was shocked to hear about the allegation and claimed the woman had made ‘untruthful and malicious’ claims after accusing him of blocking her for promotion, which he said was ‘ridiculous.’

He told the hearing: ‘I’m beyond upset about what this has all done to my wife.’ 

Outside court his solicitor, Nick Brett said: “Mr Beckwith is disappointed with the finding of the tribunal.

‘He is presently taking advice on the outcome and it would not be appropriate for him to comment further at this stage.’ Ends

Beckwith was a senior lawyer at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer (pictured), one of the City's so called 'Magic Circle' of law firms

Beckwith was a senior lawyer at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer (pictured), one of the City’s so called ‘Magic Circle’ of law firms 

Beckwith and the woman who complained about him went to her home after a night in this pub

Beckwith and the woman who complained about him went to her home after a night in this pub

Andrew Katzen, Head of Regulatory Law at Hickman & Rose Solicitors, said the case  marked a ‘turning point in the way professional regulatory bodies tackle the increasingly blurred boundary between private and working lives.’

He added: ‘The allegations against Mr Beckwith were extremely serious. But they are allegations that, only a few years ago, would likely have been rejected by the Solicitors Regulation Authority as being outside their remit.

‘Changing social attitudes to sexual behaviour embodied by the ‘Me Too’ movement mean that this is no longer the case.

‘This is the first in a line of tribunal hearings in which male partners of City and US law firms are accused of rape, sexual harassment and attempted resultant cover-ups.’ 

Senior Freshfield’s Partner Edward Braham said after the hearing: ‘Ryan Beckwith has been on indefinite leave from the firm for some time and has now resigned as a partner with immediate effect.’ 

A full written judgement detailing the reasons behind the finding and sanction is likely to be published in around seven weeks. Beckwith would have 21 days from the date of that publication to lodge an appeal.

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