"Let me rub your leg."
A lawyer has said that she raised concerns about the "totally inappropriate" behaviour of disgraced former Conservative MP Charlie Elphicke 15 years ago when the two worked together at Reed Smith, but the firm brushed aside her complaints.
Speaking to the Guardian, the lawyer produced a copy of her Reed Smith exit interview in which she had written two words as her reason for leaving: "Charlie Elphicke".
Elphicke was jailed in September after he was found guilty of sexual assaulting two women, one in 2007 and the other in 2016. After attacking the first victim at his family’s London home, he chased her around chanting “I’m a naughty Tory”, said the judge.
Elphicke is appealing, and has also denied the accusations made by his unidentified former colleague.
The female lawyer, who was in her 20s at the time, said Elphicke was known as “the office sex-pest” at Reed Smith, and that junior lawyers nicknamed him “Elfreak”.
She told the Guardian he subjected her to “completely inappropriate questioning over my personal and sex life” and would attempt to play footsie with her. “It was all very embarrassing and totally inappropriate,” she said.
“Towards the end of my time at Reed Smith, the relentless and incessant blatant sexual harassment became overbearing and I sought help from Reed Smith as my employer", said the women.
"I spoke to a partner in the department. He was appalled and said he would speak to senior management. He did, but Charles was given no more than a telling off and I was moved from his office to sit with another partner,” she said.
Despite being reprimanded, Elphicke then began to bully the women, she said, deliberately loading her up with lots of work late in the day. “During my exit interview with HR, no one seemed surprised at my reason for leaving. They all knew what he was like”, she said.
Tamara Box, Reed Smith’s Europe and Middle East managing partner, said the firm "strongly condemns all acts of harassment and/or discrimination, whenever they may have occurred, and we are deeply concerned by the conduct alleged in The Guardian article. Conduct of the kind described in the article is not tolerated by the firm".
"The firm’s current management has only recently been made aware of this matter", said Box, "and the firm is undertaking a review of how it handled this situation at the time".
She said the firm’s code of conduct "is a living commitment to maintaining positive and productive relationships with our valued colleagues, clients, suppliers and others" and "through that commitment we have made the firm the diverse, inclusive and welcoming place that it is today.”
A spokesman for Elphicke, who was sentenced to two years in jail, told the Guardian the allegations “are false and entirely untrue. They are made at a time when Mr Elphicke is unable fully to defend himself against those jumping aboard the bandwagon following his conviction and sentencing".