breth

On the stand.


The gunnercooke partner accused of acting without integrity has defended his behaviour, arguing before the Solicitors Discplinary Tribunal that his relationship with an 18-year-old colleague was consensual and that she encouraged him.

Oliver Bretherton accepted the claims that while he was a director at Gowling WLG he sexted his teenage underling and sent her a video of himself masturbating. He also accepted that he asked her to send him photos of her touching herself, reported the Law Gazette.

He told the hearing that he did rank colleagues’ attractiveness to Person A, and also admitted that he was turned on discussing her sex life with her in the office.

Bretherton agreed that he had shared leaked nudes of a Love Island contestant with the teenager, and also admitted that he and Person A discussed her using a vibrator - but he denied giving her money to buy one.

Speaking in his defence, Bretherton rejected the allegation that he told Person A he wanted to “fuck her” in his office in front of their colleagues, although he said he could not recall if he told her he wanted to “fuck her over a pool table”.

The solicitor, who was 36 at the time, maintained that he did not take advantage of his seniority. Person A was “mature and very confident and very vocal in what she wanted me to know about her sex life previously”, he said.

“At the time I believed it was something not only that she wanted to engage with but she was actively encouraging and instigating…I should have stopped it but I genuinely looked at it as two consenting adults engaging in an activity they both wanted to be involved with.”

“I knew it was inappropriate. I was married. I don’t think I can sit here morally and say it was a positive thing”, said the lawyer.

Earlier this week a woman who was in her 20s when she worked with Bretherton at Gowling WLG, ‘Person B’, told the tribunal his attitude towards her became increasingly obsessive after they became friends.

“I felt like I was being controlled and manipulated” she said.

Person B alleged that Bretherton “bombarded” her with texts, and told her she was "competing to be a favourite blonde".

But he became angry and upset when he perceived that she was aloof with him, she alleged.

"There were constant questions about where I was and what I was doing. I was later told he was tracking my calendar [to see] whether I was physically present or away from my desk”, she said, the Gazette reported.

Bretherton’s lawyer said his client appreciated that “with hindsight some of the communications he had were not appropriate”, and that he “misjudged” how comfortable Person B was with discussing “personal topics”.

Bretherton denies acting without integrity.

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Comments

Anonymous 10 March 23 08:28

Neither of them come out of it well morally so far, but it all comes down to whether or not it was consensual in terms of whether its a regulatory matter. Unfair that he's named and she's not though.

Anon 10 March 23 08:49

This could’ve been handled without resorting to regulatory intervention. Two adults should talk and resolve privately, and reports should be made only when the alleged perpetrator refuses to cooperate to reach an amicable solution such as an apology.

I’m afraid that name and shame is retributory and doesn’t help with anything. 

james last 10 March 23 09:13

Some of these comments are alarming! If the claims are true, this guy should be thoroughly ashamed. This nonsense around "consenting adults" is stupid too. This happened in a work environment (where we are all adults) and it should never have happened nor should it be encouraged or condoned.

anon 10 March 23 09:23

He doesn't come out of it well morally so far, and it does not come down to whether or not it was consensual in terms of whether it's a regulatory matter. Sexual relationships can be consensual and still be in breach of the professional conduct rules. Fair that he's named and she's not.

This could not have been handled without resorting to regulatory intervention. It is plainly a regulatory matter (which is why it has in fact become one).

This is not naming and shaming, and it is not retributory. It is important that these matters are dealt with publically, so that professional standards are not only maintained but seen to be maintained.

anon 10 March 23 09:26

james last 10 March 23 09:13: you are entirely right, but remember that Anonymous 10 March 23 08:28 and Anon 10 March 23 08:49 is the odious Question Man, who is an incel and an egregious apologist for people who commit sexual harassment. Nobody else shares his views, so no need to be alarmed.

Dave 10 March 23 09:27

The comments above are pretty concerning. I'm a bloke, and not at all focussed on political correctness etc. as a priority.  However it should be pretty bloody obvious that a director/partner should not be behaving in such a manner towards a trainee half his age, consensual or otherwise, particularly in the office.  He fully deserves to have the book thrown at him.

Anonymous 10 March 23 09:29

@james last - so what you're saying is that Person A should be ashamed even if she was consenting. Em, ok.

Anonymous 10 March 23 09:32

@9.23 - 

Neither of them come out of it well morally so far, and it does come down to whether or not it was consensual in terms of whether it's a regulatory matter. Sexual relationships which be consensual aren't in breach of the professional conduct rules. Unfair that he's named and she's not.

This could have been handled without resorting to regulatory intervention. It is plainly not a regulatory matter (which is why it is in fact not one).

This is naming and shaming, and it is retributory. It is important that these matters are dealt with fairly and non-misandrically so that professional standards are not only maintained but seen to be maintained.

Anonymous 10 March 23 09:34

@ Dave - how can you be sure that the object being hurled through the air is a book?

You cannot assume that it is not in fact a particularly thick edition of a magazine, most likely issued to commemorate a particular occasion or seasonal festivity, or in the alternative a cluster of ping-pong balls holding an unusual but not physically impossible close group as they fly together from the instigator's hand.

anon 10 March 23 09:41

He does not come out of it well morally so far, and it doesn't come down to whether or not it was consensual in terms of whether it's a regulatory matter. Sexual relationships which are consensual can still be in breach of the professional conduct rules. Fair that he's named and she's not.

This couldn't have been handled without resorting to regulatory intervention. It is plainly a regulatory matter (which is why it has in fact become one).

This isn't naming and shaming, and it isn't retributory. This is the public adjudication of professional regulation. It is important that these matters are dealt with fairly and openly, so that professional standards are not only maintained but seen to be maintained.

Larry 10 March 23 09:42

@anon 10 March 23 09:23 - agreed. Professional regulation is a public matter.

Anonymous 10 March 23 10:07

@9.26 - in what way is James last correct?

Incel is not ok. It is a sexist slur.

We don't know if 'sexual harassment' occurred as the tribunal is still ongoing, other than that the accused has been sexually harassed by being named.

Anonymous 10 March 23 10:10

@Dave - then by your its logic pretty bloody obvious that a trainee should not be behaving in such a manner towards a partner/director, consensual or otherwise, particularly in the office.  She fully deserves to have the book thrown at her.

Few would agree. Consent is key here.

 

Anonymous 10 March 23 10:11

@Larry - agreed. She should have been named if he was.

anon 10 March 23 10:15

Anonymous 10 March 23 10:07: being an incel is indeed not OK, Question Man. Stop being an incel!

Larry 10 March 23 10:18

@Anonymous 10 March 23 10:10 - indeed, as you say, few would agree that she deserves to have the book thrown at her. Remember that sexual relationships can be consensual and still be a breach of the rules of professional conduct.

Anonymous 10 March 23 10:19

Larry 10 March 23 09:42: correct. Professional regulation is a public matter. But she should not have been named.

Anonymous 10 March 23 10:41

@9.34 - always good to question. But what are the three questions you should be asking?

Anonymous 10 March 23 10:45

@10.15 - incel is not ok, it is a sexual slur.

@10.18 - agreed, few would agree that he or she deserves to have the book at them for a consensual matter. I disagree with you that she is in breach of the rules of professional conduct for having a consensual relationship.

@10.19 - if its a public matter she should be named if he is. So you don't agree with Larry's think he's correct.

Anonymous 10 March 23 10:46

@9.41 - actually neither of them come out of it well morally so far, and it does come down to whether or not it was consensual in terms of whether it's a regulatory matter. Sexual relationships which be consensual aren't in breach of the professional conduct rules. Unfair that he's named and she's not.

This could have been handled without resorting to regulatory intervention. It is plainly not a regulatory matter (which is why it is in fact not one).

This is naming and shaming, and it is retributory. It is important that these matters are dealt with fairly and non-misandrically so that professional standards are not only maintained but seen to be maintained.

A Nonnny Mouse 10 March 23 10:49

Why do we have a regulator while most industries do not? The answer is the need to protect the public from dishonest or incompetent legal practice.

This, while a serious personal and employment matter, poses no risk to the public. The regulator should butt out.

anon 10 March 23 10:50

anon 10 March 23 10:15: Boom!

Anonymous Anonymous 10 March 23 10:52

A good example why a senior person should not have a relationship with a much younger person in the same office. Often leaves to trouble.

Larry 10 March 23 10:52

Anonymous 10 March 23 10:41:

(i) When is Question Man going to see a psychiatrist?

(ii) When is Question Man going to stop being an incel?

(iii) When is Question Man going to stop being an apologist for those who commit sexual harassment?

anon 10 March 23 10:54

He certainly does not come out of it well morally so far, and remember it doesn't come down to whether or not it was consensual in terms of whether it's a regulatory matter. Sexual relationships which are consensual can still be in breach of the professional conduct rules. Fair that he's named and she's not.

This couldn't have been handled without resorting to regulatory intervention. It is plainly a regulatory matter (which is why it has in fact become one).

This isn't naming and shaming, and it isn't retributory. This is the public adjudication of professional regulation. It is important that these matters are dealt with fairly and openly, so that professional standards are not only maintained but seen to be maintained.

Hope that serves to clear up any confusion.

Anon 10 March 23 11:00

Why do we have a regulator while most industries do not? The answer is the need to maintain public confidence in the legal profession. That involves protecting the public from those who are dishonest or incompetent, and to ensure that those who practise in the legal professional conduct themselves with integrity.

If the charges are made out against Bretherton, his conduct would lack integrity and thus undermine the legal profession in the eyes of the public. The regulator should be involved, which is why they are.

anon 10 March 23 11:01

@Larry 10 March 23 10:52 - brilliant!

Anon 10 March 23 11:03

Anonymous 10 March 23 10:45: we agree with you, Question Man, that it is not OK for you to be an incel. So stop being an incel!

Anon 10 March 23 11:08

Gone are the days when Partners pursue juniors like trainees, boast about getting handjobs in offices, and go on to leave their wives and marry them...You know who you are. You live in this comment section. 

Anonymous 10 March 23 11:08

@10.50 - using sexist slurs isn't 'boom'.

Anonymous 10 March 23 11:11

@10.52 - what does 'leaves' to trouble mean?

By your logic this would be good example of why a younger person should not have a relationship with a more senior person in the same office.

Few would agree with your logic where the relationship is consensual.

Anon 10 March 23 11:13

Anon 10 March 23 11:03: good to see Question Man being openly ridiculed. If he stopped being an incel, his behaviour would cease to be characterised as such.

Larry 10 March 23 11:14

anon 10 March 23 10:54; Anon 10 March 23 11:00: spot on.

Anonymous 10 March 23 11:14

@[email protected]:

i) What psychiatrist?

ii) Incel isn't ok. It is a sexist slur.

iii) What 'sexual harassment'? The only sexual harassment so far is the naming of the accused. Nobody is apologising for that!

John 10 March 23 11:14

What are the facts?   All seems somewhat improbable tbh

Anonymous 10 March 23 11:15

@10.54 - actually they neither of them come out of it well morally so far, and it does come down to whether or not it was consensual in terms of whether it's a regulatory matter. Sexual relationships which be consensual aren't in breach of the professional conduct rules. Unfair that he's named and she's not.

This could have been handled without resorting to regulatory intervention. It is plainly not a regulatory matter (which is why it is in fact not one).

This is naming and shaming, and it is retributory. It is important that these matters are dealt with fairly and non-misandrically so that professional standards are not only maintained but seen to be maintained.

Anonymous 10 March 23 11:17

@11.00 - why do we have a regulator while most industries do not? The answer is the need to maintain public confidence in the legal profession.

This poses no risk to the public.

If the charges are made out against either the accused or Person A, this would not undermine the legal profession in the eyes of the public. The regulator shouldn't be involved.

Anonymous 10 March 23 11:19

@11.01 - what was?

@11.03 - Incel isnt ok. It is a sexist slur.

@11.08 - Which days were those? Who are they? What comments section? What comments?

Anon 10 March 23 11:21

Anon 10 March 23 11:08: true. Sadly, that person is the ghastly Question Man.

Ed 10 March 23 11:24

Bretherton certainly does not come out of it well morally so far, and remember it doesn't come down to whether or not it was consensual in terms of whether it's a regulatory matter. Sexual relationships which are consensual can still be in breach of the professional conduct rules. Fair that he's named and she's not.

This couldn't have been handled without resorting to regulatory intervention. It is plainly a regulatory matter (which is why it has in fact become one).

This isn't naming and shaming, and it isn't retributory. This is the public adjudication of professional regulation. It is important that these matters are dealt with fairly and openly, so that professional standards are not only maintained but seen to be maintained.

Anon 10 March 23 11:26

Anon 10 March 23 11:00 - yes, integrity is key, which is why this matter is being considered by the regulator. Otherwise, the public would be at risk.

Anon 10 March 23 11:27

Anonymous 10 March 23 11:19 - please get help, Question Man. You are not well.

Anon 10 March 23 11:28

John 10 March 23 11:14 - yes, improbable that she consented.

Human 10 March 23 11:31

Question Man is in my opinion an obnoxious whataboutist apologist for foul behaviour. 

-

He argues that the correct threshold for professional sexual misconduct is the criminal threshold in the absence of clear Code of Conduct issued by the SRA to specifically deal with <insert adjectives here> but lawful sexual relationships.

There is basis to this. Paragraph 33 of the Beckwith judgement stated "The requirement to act with integrity must comprise identifiable standards. "

The SRA should grasp this nettle and issue specific rules concerning sexual relationships with clients and staff.

-

Whether there should be symmetry in anonymisation of both parties in allegations of sexual offences is a matter of legitimate public debate which is completely irrelevant to this specific case and represents in my opinion rhetorical whatabout chaff designed to obfuscate from the unpleasantness of the facts of the case.

anon 10 March 23 11:31

He really doesn't come out well from this. It is a good thing the regulator got involved.

anon 10 March 23 11:34

Human 10 March 23 11:31: Well said. Question Man truly is ghastly. As you have identified, he engages in bad faith argument to promote an incel agenda.

Anonymous 10 March 23 11:48

@11.13 - who is being openly ridiculed and where? Incel isn't ok. It is a sexist slur.

@[email protected] - what was?

@11.15 - what is bust?

@11.21 - what person?

@11.27 - what help? Not well what?

@11.28 - why?

@[email protected] - obnoxious in what way? What is a 'whataboutist'? What apologies? What foul behaviour? Yes, sexual misconduct is criminal and should be proved to the appropriate standard. What clear Code of Conduct? What adjectives? Read Beckwith carefully. Consent is key. What nettle? What does consensual sexual relationships with clients and staff have to do with the SRA? Agreed, symmetry of anonymisation is important and relevant to this case. What 'rhetorical whatabout chaff'. Do you find Person A's (female) behaviour unpleasant or just the accused's (male)?

stardust 10 March 23 11:50

Creepy behaviour from a man in a more senior position?! But this is unheard of, surely?!

Narrator: it was not unheard of. 

Anonymous 10 March 23 11:51

@11.31 - neither of them come out well from this morally, but its not a regulatory matter.

@[email protected] - what was well said? Ghastly in what way? What bad faith arguments? Incel is not ok, it is a sexist slur.

Anonymous 10 March 23 11:51

[email protected] - neither of them come out of it well morally so far, and it does come down to whether or not it was consensual in terms of whether it's a regulatory matter. Sexual relationships which be consensual aren't in breach of the professional conduct rules. Unfair that he's named and she's not.

This could have been handled without resorting to regulatory intervention. It is plainly not a regulatory matter (which is why it is in fact not one).

This is naming and shaming, and it is retributory. It is important that these matters are dealt with fairly and non-misandrically so that professional standards are not only maintained but seen to be maintained.

Anonymous 10 March 23 11:53

@11.26 - consent is key here. The regulator shouldn't be involved as there is no risk to the public.

Anon 10 March 23 12:03

Ed 10 March 23 11:24: spot on. Thanks for that. Plainly a good thing that the regulator got involved. Integrity issues are serious and the public need to be protected. He certainly does not come out from this in a positive light - as he himself (rightly) acknowledges.

Pumpy McPump Face 10 March 23 12:04

Isn't this pretty simple? If you're a senior associate plus and even if you have an 18 yo apprentice who may want to see your bits (which we don't 100% know here) and you want to show them your bits, you just don't because a) you might be struck off, b) it's downright grim and c) it's hardly fitting behaviour in any office workplace, let alone a law firm.

Anon 10 March 23 12:05

Anonymous 10 March 23 11:53: consent isn’t relevant. Remember that sexual relationships can constitute a breach of the SRA Code even when there is consent.

Anonymous 10 March 23 12:08

@Narrator: but we don't know if it was creepy. In fact it may have been consensual.

 

Ash89 10 March 23 12:26

This guy was a senior member of the firm in which the 18 year old worked.  I'm assuming she wanted a career in law.

It is absolutely a matter that should be considered whether it's a breach of professional conduct.  The issue is whether this person acted without integrity rather than committed an illegal act.  

The idea that there's a solicitor that doesn't understand the difference is...alarming.

Anonymous 10 March 23 12:27

@12.03 - Not a good thing that the regulator got involved. There is no risk to the public. They certainly do not come out from this in a positive light morally, but its not a regulatory matter - as he himself (rightly) acknowledges.

Anonymous 10 March 23 12:30

@12.04 - why would someone be struck off for a consensual relationship? What is grim about consensual relationships? There is no suggestion that either of them showed the other their bits in the workplace. Are you saying Person A was in the wrong if she asked to see his bits?

Anonymous 10 March 23 12:31

@12.05 - consent isn't relevant? Not sure many people would agree with that! Consent is key to relationships, and crucial as to whether this is a regulatory matter. Their consent remember, not yours.

Anon 10 March 23 12:32

Anonymous 10 March 23 11:48 - please see a mental health professional, Question Man.

Larry 10 March 23 12:35

Pumpy McPump Face 10 March 23 12:04; Anon 10 March 23 12:05: correct.

Anon 10 March 23 12:37

Anonymous 10 March 23 12:08 - it may have been consensual but that doesn’t matter, as consensual sexual relationships can still amount to professional misconduct.

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