The ex-London Managing Partner of Baker McKenzie and the woman he kissed against her will in 2012 have been giving evidence at the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.

'Person A' spoke from behind a screen in a court which this week has been filled with approximately 30 lawyers representing the four respondents and the SRA.

She described how Gary Senior asked her to stay behind in his hotel room at 3am after a night on the town with three other lawyers.

Person A told the tribunal that once the others left, Senior "paid me a compliment" and said, "can we have a hug?"

Senior then kissed her neck, although he disputed her claim that she turned away from him, or that he gripped her.

"And then my phone started to ring and I remember feeling quite relieved because I was thinking 'how can I extract myself from this situation'", said Person A. "I said 'that will be my boyfriend, I must answer it, he will worry if I don't.'"

Senior told her, "Don't answer it, stay and we'll talk about your boyfriend", she said. After a minute or two, the rest of the group returned.


sen

That old trick, eh.


After she made a complaint the following week, Person A was "repeatedly" asked if she would accept an apology from Senior, she said. The meetings she took with HR were "horrible" and "intimidating", rather than conciliatory, she told the hearing.

Worried about bumping into him in the office, she said HR left it to her to come up with solutions while she took a leave of absence. "My feeling at the time was I was cast aside. I didn’t feel I was as important to the firm as protecting its own reputation and Mr Senior."

She said she felt the firm's invitations to return to work were "hollow".

"I couldn’t possibly imagine how I could see myself staying at the firm and going about my day-to-day work life and knowing there were a lot of senior people in the firm who knew what had happened."

The SRA's counsel, Andrew Tabachnik QC, accused the firm of spending "all this time putting in place drinking restrictions for Gary", and writing emails focusing on "support for Gary", while doing "no work on protocols which would allow Person A to return to work".

"Rarely has a letter before action been so warmly received", said Tabachnik, as the one Leigh Day sent Bakers on behalf of Person A. It requested an exit package comprising two years' pay and £15,000. After a nominal push back asking for one year's pay, Bakers acceded.

The SRA claims that Senior, former HR director Martin Blackburn and the litigation partner who led the investigation, Tom Cassel, were too focused on protecting Senior and the firm from scrutiny, and inappropriately involved Senior in the investigation. Tabachnik cited the fact that Senior even helped draft his own warning letter. That was "a microcosm of the way the relationships worked here", he told the tribunal.

Senior accepted his behaviour was inappropriate, but denied abusing his power. He also rejected Tabachnik's accusation that he "micro-managed" the investigation into the incident.

And he defended his suggestion at the time that Person A could work at home for 18 months while he served out his term as managing partner as "an attractive alternative if she was simply not willing to come back to the office and work as normal".

Acting for Baker McKenzie, Patricia Roberton QC said Person A's head of department looked after her, stayed in touch once she left and provided a positive reference. Robertson said the firm had been concerned at all times for her wellbeing.

The hearing is set to continue for another week.

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Comments

Anonymous 06 December 19 08:54

Will be interesting to see how this goes, the hearing is still ongoing. But some of the process is unfair,  e.g. he is named while she is not, the testifying behind a screen, etc. It feels a bit as if the decision has already been made that he is guilty and the process is just for show.

Anonymous 06 December 19 09:54

What I mean is that any time there's a story that touches on sexual misconduct or allegations of sexual misconduct, the same tired voices (voice?) can be relied upon to raise a series of spurious points and straw man arguments.  These usually take the form of pompous and entitled calls for "evidence", as though they should be privy to matters which no bystander has any right to see, no matter how titillated he might hope to be.  In this case, with admissions having been made, the voices (voice?) adopt a different approach.  On no fair or rational basis at all, the assumption is made that the matter is prejudged and that it is somehow unfair that the witness at the centre of the matter is given anonymity.  

Anonymous 06 December 19 10:10

Then perhaps you should have said that 9.54. There haven't been any comments calling for evidence here, not sure what you're on about. Evidence isn't a 'spurious point' or a 'straw man argument' - where it isn't provided it isn't a right, it's a necessity for anyone wanting to pass meaningful judgement, especially with the amount of false accusations about. I usually find that vague details and no evidence favour the titilators as it allows peoples' imagination to run wild. In this case, the basis for assuming the matter to be prejudged was given, what you call a 'witness' is an accuser, and is unfair that one is given anonymity and one isn't- should be both or neither.

Allenby 06 December 19 10:14

" And he defended his suggestion at the time that Person A could work at home for 18 months while he served out his term as managing partner as "an attractive alternative if she was simply not willing to come back to the office and work as normal". "

Wow.

berksgirl 06 December 19 10:36

OK, genuine question here - I'm a girl and can't see what all the fuss is about! So some guy gets a bit tipsy and tries to kiss you. Half of the couples I know started their relationships like that!  If it's unwanted, it is perfectly possible to say thanks but no thanks and leave.  No need to get all over-dramatic about it.

Pearly Queen 06 December 19 10:51

Got to say I have similar thoughts yo you berksgirl. I too cannot understand the fuss based on what I have read about the case.

Anon 06 December 19 11:41

Guess the issue is somewhere between feeling pressured/trapped because they have authority/power over your career and the risk of being undermined at work in future for having denied such a person's advances. It's easy to simply say no to someone you meet randomly at a bar or even more frequently and completely different when they can make important decisions affecting your career. 

Anonymous 06 December 19 12:45

"Some guy" trying to kiss you is a different matter from the managing partner of your firm trying to kiss you. After all, there are three defendants in this case, and the other two are there because it's claimed that he pressured them into covering things up for him. If the head of HR in the firm and one of the litigation partners are credibly considered to be vulnerable to pressure from Senior, why assume "Person A" should have assumed there weren't going to be adverse consequences?

Anon13216516 06 December 19 12:49

With all due respect for the hardship A has likely endured over the course of these last few years, I'm sick of these types of articles. Naturally, don't condone this behaviour (presuming truth to this), and Senior seems an Oompa Looma [redacted by ROF], but enough already.

Anonymous 06 December 19 13:28

Based on the NQ rate at Bakers, a settlement of 2 years salary plus £15,000 is at least £215,000. Then there is 18 months working from home where realistically do we think she was doing that much work or could do that much work and even if she was 18 months working from home nice way to live. So that takes the total payout for a kiss to at least £415,000 or thereabouts. Approaching half a million for a kiss, nice work if you can get it.

Anonymous 06 December 19 14:35

13.28, A) Bakers' NQ basic is 95k, not 100k. B) This happened in 2012. I don't know what Bakers' NQ salary was back then but it certainly wasn't remotely close to £100k.

berksgirl 06 December 19 15:16

 

There are ways of dealing with these things - you can say no without making into a big deal.  When that person realises you are  not making it into a big deal the likelihood of any adverse effects are minimal - as they don't want to risk it all coming out.  If you act like a grown-up about these things there often aren't any adverse consequences.  Time we stopped acting like men are predators and we women need saving.  

Anonymous 06 December 19 15:19

@11.41 - I'm not sure there was actually much power to affect her career if she turned him down, I think it's probably a matter of education and helping people not to have fears which aren't justified. Also, there hasn't been any suggestion that he sought to negatively affect her career, it does appear that he was sorry for making advances.

SecularJurist 06 December 19 22:54

Listen, you screwheads. You City types have been too deeply involved in M&A and washing money for Russians and Gulf princelings that you have forgotten your basic civil and criminal law. 

It's called Assault. Fagan v MPC and Collins v Wilcock etc.

Person 'A' should have called the police or lodged a private prosecution or civil claim against this sleaze who, it seems,  cannot handle his drink. However, this kind of automatism is not a defence that would be available in this case, particularly as he became drunk voluntarily.

Anonymous 07 December 19 07:42

No, SecularJurist, it wasn't assault, in fact assault has not even been alleged. Even if someone got drunk and made the accusation that this was an assault, that would not defend the drunken automatism of making the accusation.

That Athena poster of two girls kissing 07 December 19 09:48

I don't understand.  Surely it's just nature.

Man is the hunter.

If they were dogs he could have mounted her in the middle of the road and while a few people might have honked their horns, no-one would have gone to a tribunal.

Political correctness has gone mad.  You can't do or say anything in this country anymore.

Soon you won't be able to ask a waitress for a fork.  In fact, I'm going to go and do that right now.

Take that you VEGAN BASTARDS.

Anonymous 07 December 19 11:24

Sorry, but lol at Fagan v MPC and Collins v Willcock in relation to this case. Private prosecution or civil claim on this basis would have been misconceived.

SecularJurist 07 December 19 12:26

Anonymous 7 Dec 07:42

No you fool, you are assuming the drunkeness of Person A. I was referring to the drunkeness of the perpetrator.  Read the [redacted by ROF] post, you [redacted by ROF].

Anonymous 07 December 19 15:14

6th @ 12.45 - good point, but the Head of HR and the litigation partner are accused if helping cover up an investigation, not of helping retaliate against the accuser for rejecting Senior's advances. That's quite a different thing.

Anonymous 07 December 19 20:54

SecularJurist 7 Dec 12.26

No you fool, there is no assumption of the drunkeness of Person A. Person A made no accusation of assault. If someone else got drunk and made an accusation that there was an assault that would not excuse the drunken automatism of the perpetrator making the accusation.

That Athena poster of the man holding a baby 07 December 19 21:03

If someone tries to kiss you it's because they like you - so it's a compliment really.

You can't even give a girl a compliment anymore.

It's political correctness gone mad.

I'm going to ask a waitress for a fork too.  See how that goes down.

I'LL SEE YOU IN PRISON BEFORE YOU TAKE MY RIGHTS AWAY.

Anonymous 08 December 19 09:01

One problem with this type of investigation is that there are almost always double standards involved. It was reported elsewhere that Senior, via his lawyer, has accused one of the opposing side of inappropriate behaviour towards him. It isn't clear how this allegation was investigated, but it was dealt with by a verbal warning not to do it again and everyone moving on rather than a public inquisition. It does appear that 'all allegations of inappropriate behaviour are taken extremely seriously', but some are taken more seriously than others.

Anonymous 08 December 19 10:04

Anon13216516 06 December 19 12:49

With all due respect for the hardship A has likely endured over the course of these last few years, I'm sick of these types of articles

So am I.  Now this is actually getting press attention, perhaps the partners abusing their positions will stop doing it and we won't have to read about it any more.

Anonymous 08 December 19 11:51

Anonymous 08 December 19 10.04

And perhaps people won't accuse partners of abusing their positions when they haven't abused them and we won't have to read about that anymore. In this case we don't know if the partner abused his position - that is the whole point of the hearing. Folly to rush to judgement before it has even finished.

Orwell 08 December 19 21:50

Jamie, I realise this improves the hit rate of the stories when we're stupid enough to engage with him, but people have been banned from Rof for much much less egregious trolling than Mr Evidence.  Some consistency would be nice.

SecularJurist 08 December 19 23:00

Anon 7 Dec 20:54.

You still haven't properly read my post. I suggested Person A should have lodged a complaint for assault, via the police or the civil court.

The whole affair is risible anyway and the credibility of said firm has been severely damaged and the partner in question has not conducted himself like a gentleman. If you don't want your dirty linen washed in public then conduct yourself with decorum. 

Anonymous 09 December 19 11:23

Orwell, it's not clear which comments you are referring to, but do remember that all comments are moderated before being posted. Just because you don't happen to agree with a comment doesn't mean it amounts to 'egregious trolling' which should be banned. Feel free to engage or not as you choose (preferably, if you're able to, without name-calling), but please don't try to silence people just because they don't share your views.

Anonymous 09 December 19 12:56

Secularjurist 8 Dec 23:00

Your post was read but disagreed with. Like your other posts.

 

 

Anon 09 December 19 16:43

This is like the Lord Lester case - he was found to have harrassed the victim and abused his position, and voted out of the House of Lords - but, if convicted, Senior will doubtless be treated more severely than Lester, who was given clearance to practise by the Bar Standards Board, because of the divergence of approach between the BSB and SRA.

Anonymous 09 December 19 20:29

In reality, Lord Lester, who most people view as a victim, was not voted out of the House of Lords. The only vote which took place decided that the process used against Lester was unfair. He subsequently resigned from the House of Lords due to the impact upon his health (he was 82 at the time). The Bar Standards Board subsequently cleared Lester of any wrongdoing whatsoever, and there is nothing to indicate that the SRA would have acted any differently.

Orwell 09 December 19 21:51

@11:23- Please don't put words in my mouth. If you care to read my post, I didn't call for anyone to be banned. 

Luckily, the message that comments will  be moderated before publishing tipped me off to how comments sections work, but thank you for your not at all patronising explanation.

My comment relates to a pattern of behaviour for a year from Mr Evidence and a decade's worth of board moderation. If you don't have the context to understand the comment, then I don't really have the space in one post to explain. If you feel.strongly enough about it to want to know the chapter and verse, feel free to post your nonnymail and I would be delighted to enlighten you.

 

Anonymous 10 December 19 07:41

How is the comment at 11.23 putting words in your mouth Orwell?

How is expressing an opinion a 'pattern of behaviour' any more than it is 'egregious trolling'? You can't possibly know who is posting the comments or how many or which ones are by the same person. There are many different commenters who question the accuracy of allegations and your comments are a good example of false accusations associated with sexual harassment allegations, and there is a definite 'pattern of behaviour' from you in this respect.

Engage if you like, make a convincing argument if you can, but please don't try to shut down other people from speaking up.

Anonymous 10 December 19 08:31

As none of the comments here are actually asking for evidence, perhaps 'Mrs No Evidence' would be a more appropriate moniker than 'Mr Evidence'.

Anonymous 10 December 19 12:52

Roll on Friday's discussion board and comments are a perfect microcosm of what is happening in a society in general and in our politics in particular.  When the unspoken rules regulating our behaviour and interaction and setting our boundaries are dispensed with we return to a Hobbesian state of nature.

Time to quit the board and probably the country.

The sad thing is that if it spreads much further there will be nowhere left to go, then we will start to see violence.

Realist 10 December 19 13:50

As for Lord Lester, the House of Lords upheld the findings of the Committee and recommended that Lord Lester be suspended. He resigned before that suspension could be implemented.

The initial vote was that the process was unfair. The matter was then remitted to the Committee to reconsider; the Committee concluded the process was fair; the Lords then reconsidered the matter and voted to approve the conclusion of the Committee that the process was fair. So the Lords decided the process was fair.

https://hansard.parliament.uk/Lords/2018-12-17/debates/E9E8AE1E-3CD4-4166-BCF9-0765260054A9/PrivilegesAndConductCommittee

“The Senior Deputy Speaker

The noble Lord said that there were six contemporaneous witnesses. We invite Members to read their accounts.

In her own words,

“on the basis of the strong and cogent evidence of the complainant and her witnesses”,

the commissioner found that Jasvinder Sanghera was a victim of sexual harassment and that Lord Lester was guilty of a grave abuse of power. The Committee for Privileges and Conduct reviewed and endorsed this view. We ask the House to do the same. I hope the House will now agree to this report.

Motion agreed.”

The Hansard report speaks for itself. The House voted to endorse the findings of the Committee that Lester was guilty of sexual harassment and abuse of position. That is why they recommended that he be suspended. In turn, that is why he referred himself to the BSB when the House reached its decision. (No need if the House had rejected the Committee’s decision and thereby exonerated him.)

The issue before the BSB was whether, despite his conduct, he should be given clearance to practise. The BSB gave him such clearance. That shows the huge gulf between the approaches of the SRA and the BSB.

Anonymous 10 December 19 15:37

In other words, 13.50, Lord Lester, who most people view as a victim, was not voted out of the House of Lords. The only vote which took place decided that the process used against Lester was unfair. He subsequently resigned from the House of Lords due to the impact upon his health (he was 82 at the time). The Bar Standards Board subsequently cleared Lester of any wrongdoing whatsoever, and there is nothing to indicate that the SRA would have acted any differently.

Anonymous 10 December 19 17:34

@12:52 - I disagree. While morale is certainly low at the moment, and there is a tendency for people to have very entrenched positions and not be able to see others' viewpoints, I see this as a temporary phenomenon, as dialogue is the great leveller.

SecularJurist 10 December 19 19:26

Anonymous  9 Dec 12:56

Perhaps the reason why some dislike my comments is because they, and this story, make uncomfortable reading for them.

The toxic macho and long hours and billing culture, with the resultant binge drinking, is arguably why many would be deterred from working in so-called MC and SC firms.

The latest testimony from the SRA tribunal is that the partner in question, challenged under cross-examination, allegedly dictated to the Head of HR (who is also facing action from the SRA in the same tribunal) a letter of apology to Person A.

It seems that many contributors to this comments chain re this story want to negate any SRA action or somehow condone the particular ex-B&M partner's actions, e.g.  the contributor called 'That Athena poster...' regards them as a compliment. That is, of course, nonsense.

Whosoever regards this tribunal as political correctness is living in the nineteenth century.

Person A did not consent to the kiss. That is an assault. Ergo, Fagan v MPC and Collins v Wilcocks stand. Furthermore, it is far from horseplay or a practical joke.

Anonymous 10 December 19 23:05

SecularJurist 10 December 19.26

More likely just that they disagree with your views for the obvious reasons.

That the partner gave the apology in his own words is fair enough, it does appear that he was genuinely sorry. Would you rather HR dictated the apology to him and told him what to say?

There are certainly some parts of the process which haven't been fair on the accused (anonymity for one and not the other, etc) and the SRA need to look at these if they wish the process to be considered fair.

As the hearing is still ongoing, with the accusations being denied, we don't know what happened. It would be fully to attempt to pass judgement. One thing that is for sure though is that it wasn't assault, indeed there has been no accusation of assault from Person A or the SRA. It's fine to form an opinion, even if ill-judged, but to steadfastly insist that an assault took place, and refer to Fagan v MPC and Collins v Willcocks will have readers rolling about laughing.

Gerald 11 December 19 08:21

The Anthony Lester case is troubling. There needs to be consistency between the regulators. It can’t be right that a barrister harasses someone, is suspended from a legislative body, and is allowed to continue in practice.

Anonymous 11 December 19 11:43

Consistency doesn't really come into it Gerald, as Lord Lester isn't a solicitor so wasn' investigated by the SRA. Lester wasn't suspended by the Lords, he resigned due to the toll an investigation (which the Lords themselves voted was unfair) took upon his health (he was 82 at the time). The BSB completely cleared him of any wrongdoing whatsoeve, therefore he is allowed to continue in practice. Troubling that he is continually accused of harassment.

Anonymous 11 December 19 13:00

He did apologise, and from the proceedings so far the apology appears genuine. Unless there is something else which hasn't come out yet it is a pity that there wasn't a way in which the apology could have been accepted and everyone able to move on. It certainly would seem better than the current situation.

Anon 11 December 19 16:37

Clear divergence of approach between BSB and SRA. Lord Lester got off lightly - with all the negative implications which that brings. Had he been a solicitor, he would have been struck off or suspended. The Hansard report speaks for itself. Lester was found to have harassed a woman and abused his position, and then voted to be suspended from the House of Lords. He jumped before he was pushed, and so resigned before the suspension could be implemented - again, with all the negative implications which that brings.

Anonymous 11 December 19 18:11

No divergence 16.37 because Lester wasn't investigated by the SRA. Furthermore, Lord Lester, who most people view as a victim, was not voted out of the House of Lords. The only vote which took place decided that the process used against Lester was unfair. He subsequently resigned from the House of Lords due to the impact upon his health (he was 82 at the time). The Bar Standards Board subsequently cleared Lester of any wrongdoing whatsoever, and there is nothing to indicate that the SRA would have acted any differently.

SecularJurist 11 December 19 19:02

Anon 10 Dec 23:05

"...readers rolling about laughing".

 

Afraid I'll have to disagree. Uninvited kisses are no laughing matter. perhaps Person A did not know of the options legally available to them because civil or criminal assault is not an area of practice at MC firms.

This incident is symptomatic or the long hours culture where one's only friends and social life revolves around colleagues. It is an almost consanguinous way of living and working. Working at MC and SC firms is distinctly unappealing and is no life for sane human beings, regardless of the remuneration.

Anonymous 12 December 19 12:48

SecularJurist 11 December 19.02

It isn't so much uninvited kisses that readers will be rolling about laughing at, so much as the misconception of what constitutes an assault and the spurious case law. This is a good example of why it can be unfair to the accused as they end up being subject to all manner of other allegations.

You may have a point about the working conditions in these firms and the resentment it can breed among colleagues.

Gerald 12 December 19 13:44

To ascertain divergence of approach between regulatory bodies, you see how they treat the same conduct. The Lester case shows there is divergence between the BSB and SRA. If you are a barrister and harass someone, there are no repercussions; if you are solicitor and harass someone, you are suspended or struck off.

Anonymous 12 December 19 13:57

Lord Lester's alleged conduct wasn't investigated by the SRA Gerald, so there was no approach to diverge. He was completely cleared by the BSB, they found he didn't harass anyone. So obviously there would be no repercussions.

Anon 12 December 19 14:21

The BSB were not deciding whether or not Anthony Lester harassed the victim. That he was guilty of harassment had been decided by the commissioner and committee in the Lords, and endorsed by the House; that is what they voted to suspend him. The issue before the BSB was whether, in spite of his established conduct, Lester should be given clearance to practise. The BSB decided he should be given such clearance. In so deciding, the BSB acted differently to how the SRA would have done when faced with the same conduct by a member of the solicitors’ profession. Hence there is divergence. 

Anonymous 12 December 19 14:49

No, 14.21, there was no divergence because Lester wasn't investigated by the SRA. Furthermore, Lord Lester, who most people view as a victim, was not voted out of the House of Lords. The only vote which took place decided that the process used against Lester was unfair. He subsequently resigned from the House of Lords due to the impact upon his health (he was 82 at the time). The Bar Standards Board subsequently cleared Lester of any wrongdoing whatsoever, and there is nothing to indicate that the SRA would have acted any differently.

Anonymous 12 December 19 19:36

There needs to be a way of investigating the cases which doesn't involve the person accused being sexually harassed.