The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal has fined a senior partner for inappropriately touching a paralegal, when drunk at a bar.
Julian Critchlow, 63, was the senior partner at eponymous firm Al Bawardi Critchlow Solicitors (now Costigan King) at the time of the incident in 2018. He had been drinking at a wine bar during lunch and stayed there into the evening. Various colleagues joined him at the bar during his marathon vino session. Witnesses said that Critchlow was "extremely drunk" and was seen spilling wine on other people and slurring his speech.
A female paralegal, who had joined the firm recently and was supervised by Critchlow, became the subject of the partner's attentions. The senior partner touched her leg on more than one occasion, rubbed her back and kissed the back of her neck, the tribunal was told, according to a report.
Critchlow's display of unwanted affection was particularly uncomfortable as colleagues and a client were seated at the same table. The paralegal asked her co-workers that night how the incident might affect her job prospects, according to witnesses.
"Anyone for drinks?"
The matter was reported to the firm, and Critchlow apologised to the paralegal. It was arranged for another partner to become her supervisor. But the paralegal left the firm the following month after signing a non-disclosure agreement. Critchlow paid £13,000 for a settlement agreement.
Critchlow self-reported his misconduct, and the SRA brought the matter before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.
Critchlow's barrister, Alexandra Felix, told the tribunal that the paralegal had not been forced out by what happened, and said the incident had not hampered her career. The paralegal decided not to give evidence at the hearing.
Felix said that Critchlow had made full admissions about his conduct from the start and before the SRA investigated the matter. Character witnesses were "surprised and shocked" that Critchlow had acted in this manner, said Felix, who described the partner's actions towards the paralegal as "inept and bumbling".
The SDT has heard other harassment matters in recent times, including the well-publicised cases of Ryan Beckwith and Gary Senior. Felix sought to distinguish Critchlow's behaviour from other cases, as she argued that the paralegal was not alone with the partner. She also said that Critchlow did not appreciate what he was doing because of his inebriated state.
Critchlow said he remembered little of what had happened, but admitted that he had failed to act with integrity and failed to act in a way which maintains trust in the profession. The tribunal noted that Critchlow had self-reported and fully apologised. But the panel also said it had "considerable sympathy" for the paralegal who must have been "appalled and upset" by the incident.
The tribunal fined Critchlow £10,000 .