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The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal has fined a solicitor for "joking" to a black secretary that he'd joined the Ku Klux Klan, and making a racist joke at a firm party. The tribunal also found that the lawyer  touched the secretary's bottom on numerous occasions. 

Samuel Charkham, 68, a partner at Simkins at the time of the alleged incidents, was fined £30,000 and ordered to pay costs of £21,000. The tribunal said Charkham's failures were "very serious", but he avoided being struck off. 

In one of the charges brought by the SRA, Charkham "joked" that he had joined the Ku Klux Klan to Person A (who is black), while wearing a white A4 envelope as a hat. Person A, a secretary at the time, said she was shocked by Charkham's behaviour and wanted to quickly finish the task she was working on, so she could go outside and get herself together.

A former colleague who had witnessed the incident told Charkham that it wasn't funny, to which he responded it was only a joke, the tribunal heard. 

"I was being playful," the Charkham told the tribunal, adding that "I know it sounds ridiculous in retrospect." He denied that his actions were directed at Person A, as there were other secretaries in the area. When questioned, he accepted that his behaviour had been "disgraceful," according to reports this week in The Law Society Gazette

Charkham said he did not know fully what the KKK stood for, but that he had developed a more detailed understanding since the incident. "I wish I had known what it represented at that time," he told the tribunal.

In another incident, Person A, was at the firm's Christmas dinner when the partner make a racist joke in her vicinity. The secretary said she caught the "odd word" including "c*on." She said the joke caused her colleagues to gasp and turn to look at her.   

A colleague at the time told the tribunal that the joke by Charkham was a play on the word "tycoon." Another former Simkins employee and witness said the punchline was "the kind of joke I have not heard for 25 years."

Charkham admitted to the tribunal that he had told the joke, conceding that he had an "old fashioned" sense of humour. "I have told racist jokes in the past in a very different political climate than we are now, and I would never dream to do the same thing again." He said, "the Black Lives Matter movement did not exist four years ago".

"We do not accept for one moment these were jokes," said the SRA's lawyer. To describe Charkham's conduct as "banter" would be "a grotesque misnomer and should be rejected in the strongest possible terms," said the SRA.

The tribunal also found allegations of misconduct against Charkham proven that he had inappropriately touched the secretary's bottom at least 18 times on various occasions in the office or at work events, over a period of four years. However, Charkham denied touching Person A, and told the tribunal that the allegations were false.

The tribunal also found that Charkham touched another female colleague's bottom, although Charkham said in his defence that it was a "playful kick".

In mitigation, Charkham's lawyer provided the tribunal with a list of character references, saying "the references individually and collectively are positive and compelling and describe the real person sitting before you."

"Simkins is committed to promoting a working environment in which all individuals are treated with dignity and respect and in which all can thrive regardless of their background or personal circumstances," a spokesman for the firm told RollOnFriday. "We take any allegation of discrimination or inappropriate behaviour seriously and will promptly investigate any such allegation and then take the appropriate action.”

Charkham left Simkins around two years ago, and joined Portner Law. A spokesman for Portner told RollOnFriday "we removed Sam as a consultant as soon as we were aware of the allegations of his conduct prior to joining us."

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Comments

Anon 23 October 20 09:13

Where to start!

This individual and this type of conduct is far more damaging to the profession and improving much needed diversity than anything else the SRA comes up with and yet a senior, white, male solicitor once again avoids being disbarred. 
 

How any supposedly educated individual can claim they didn’t fully understand what the KKK was about is beyond me. This is a man in his 60s claiming he didn’t know the KKK were aggressively racist and lynched black people across the US. Pull the other one!

To add to that his defence that “oh I told this horribly racist joke in 2016 when it was ok and times have changed”. Not that much sunshine. The difference is people now have the courage to call out scumbags like this bloke!  One can only imagine what play on words he was using given his apparent interest in the KKK and their approach to lynchings!
 

Sickening that people like this are allowed to carry on practicing and once again the profession as a whole is damaged.

Anon 23 October 20 09:46

Wow, the SRA really out here protecting white men at all costs! The KKK isn't funny. Neither is sexual harassment. What an absolute piece of trash this man is. 

It's the allowing racist, sexist, white men to succeed in a profession they have no business being in for me.

Anon 23 October 20 09:46

Whilst the behaviour cannot ever be condoned, the other side of the coin needs to be looked at. This man has been a teacher and guru to dozens of successful solicitors who owe him an awful lot. He was one of the few truly great property solicitors I have ever come across, a legend in the market. He has contributed a huge amount to the profession in his time. The outcome is a fair one. It's a bit hypocritical given the context to want to lynch him out of the profession.

Wayward Lawyer 23 October 20 10:02

Anon 09:46: Yeah, it's the same thing with that other bloke who was a decent painter, published author, lover of music, rose to the top in his career, drove his country out of a major recession, etc. As you say, "It's a bit hypocritical given the context to want to lynch him", poor Adolf.

Anonymous 23 October 20 14:44

"I didn't know what the KKK stood for."

That's about as convincing as saying: "The fertiliser in my homemade bomb was organic."

Liz 23 October 20 17:27

Do you think if Charkham was a solicitor of colour and told a  racist joke about the waspy elite and touched a white secretary's derriere 18 times as he wished he would still be in practice ? Hmmm thought so . Imagine if that were your daughter , mother, wife , girl friend was being routinely touched up by the office perv and then insulted with racist slurs creepy right yeah he shouldnt be in practice . 

Anonymous 23 October 20 17:35

It's not a racist joke if you are groped and manhandled like a piece of meat. Arent you morons lawyers thats assault he should be reprted to police for sexual assault groping a woman . If a black male  lawyer harrassed a white female secretary day in day out and then insulted her with verbal jokes thats bullying assault and I can assure you that lawyer would be out of a job 

Margaret Mountbatten 23 October 20 19:08

He allegedly groped her backside never proven. 
Why didn’t she report it when it supposedly happened? She didn’t report it until she was fired.

Sounds like another woman jumping on the bandwagon looking for a pay out

 

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