Rising up, back on the street. Or possibly at a firm, at least.

The SRA has decided not to appeal the High Court's recent ruling on ex-Freshfields partner Ryan Beckwith.

Last month, the High Court overturned the Solicitor Disciplinary Tribunal's ruling against Ryan Beckwith. The SRA's decision not to appeal would seem to bring an end to the high-profile case.

In October 2019 the SDT had fined Beckwith £35,000 and ordered that he pay £200,000 in costs after ruling that he had acted without integrity by engaging in sexual acts with a drunk junior lawyer. The tribunal ruled that a fine, rather than a ban sought by the SRA, was "appropriate and proportionate in the circumstances." 

In February last year, Beckwith appealed to the High Court. In December, the High Court found the tribunal was wrong to rule that Beckwith had breached the SRA principle of failing to act with integrity; or that he undermined public trust in him and in the provision of legal services.

The court said "the requirement to act with integrity" obliged Beckwith "not to act so as to take unfair advantage" of the female junior lawyer "by reason of his professional status." The court concluded, "on the findings made by the Tribunal, that had not happened."

Anna Bradley, the SRA board chair, has now confirmed that the regulator will not appeal the judgment. 

Reflecting on the High Court's judgment, Bradley said that it raised "important matters for public debate and scrutiny, rather than simply matters of law."

She welcomed the court’s confirmation "that the public is entitled to expect that junior staff and members of the profession are treated with respect by more senior colleagues." She noted that the court had emphasised that solicitors must not "take unfair advantage of others" whether in a "professional or personal capacity."
"In overturning the Tribunal’s decision, the court expressly limited itself to the circumstances of this case," said Bradley. "Our case did not depend on the issue of consent. Rather, we argued that the circumstances indicated vulnerability and abuse of a position of seniority and authority. Those and some other key facts were not found proved by the Tribunal. The court’s judgment was based on and limited to the application of our Principles to the findings of fact made by the Tribunal in this case."

Bradley stressed that the regulator would still "act upon"  allegations of sexual misconduct and sexual harassment, which it would take "very seriously."
The SRA's full statement can be seen here

Tip Off ROF


Joke Gestapo Like Organization 08 January 21 08:50

The SRA is a joke.  It squanders our money operating like the gestapo pursuing woke unsuccessful and costly prosecutions which cause unnecessary misery.

Each humiliating defeat is met with arrogance and commentary revealing a complete lack of self-awareness.  The SRA is useless and needs to be disbanded and replaced with something which is fit for purpose.  None of its current decision makers or its advisers should be involved in regulatory activities. 

It comes to something when a regulator behaves so badly that it needs its own regulator to avoid bringing the profession which it purports to regulate into disrepute.

Disband the SRA. 

Ouch! 08 January 21 08:53

Thats the SRA well and truly publicly spanked! Well done to Beckwith. The SRA can now focus on their usual preferred targets of trainees and paralegals who make mistakes under pressure and when working in ultra stressful poorly supervised working environments.

Anonymous 08 January 21 09:31

I think it was fair for the SRA to bring this to the SDT. There was certainly a case as to whether a partner had taken advantage of a female junior lawyer.

Anonymous 08 January 21 10:11

Not an SRA matter though, 9.31, anymore than it would be investigating whether a senior male lawyer was taken advantage of.

Anon 08 January 21 10:27

Isn't it demeaning for women and any idea that they may choose whom they sleep with without judgement that the SRA even pursued this?

Or are we to assume that the poor feeble waifs are unable to make any decisions about their own sexuality and therefore this could only have happened if some horrible man preyed upon them.

The SRA is important but mismanaged 08 January 21 10:41

The SRA is important but mismanaged.

I understand the superficial attraction of having lay people running any organisation which regulates professionals: the desire to avoid the perception/reality that it is being run for the profession's benefit, not the public's.

The disadvantages, however, are [at least] three-fold:

1. Calibre of personnel. The SRA appears to be prone to hijack by clueless ideologues devoid of any genuine intellect or professional competence (in any sphere of life whatsoever), whose sole achievements in life are to infest a continuous merry-go-round of quangos and similarly unproductive 'non-jobs', leeching off people who actually deliver useful services to society. To paraphrase the old warning, "Those who can, practice; those who can't, regulate"

2. Sexual morality quests/poor decision-making ability. The Beckwith case shows that the SRA appears to be going on a frolic of its own and seeking to impose opaque and arbitrary standards of sexual morality. The SRA's arrogance in then failing to respect (respect, as opposed to grudgingly acknowledge) the High Court's judgment suggests that there is a fundamental failure in the SRA's decision-making ability. It is as if individuals within the SRA are emotionally vested in imposing their own morality, and resent the realities of the (a) facts; and (b) law. If solicitors behaved like this, we would be struck off. This is a sub-optimal stance for a regulator.

3. Politicisation/imperviousness to evidence. The introduction of the SQE is a disaster, but has been driven through for political reasons on the basis of the wholly incredible assertion that it will improve so-called 'social justice'. This is a left-wing political view of what constitutes 'social justice'; it is against the public interest in a meritocracy based on competence; and disadvantaged students will be misled into believing that all training contracts are equal. In fact, many will end up in dead end de facto paralegal careers. Many of these points were raised to the SRA, and the professional was almost entirely opposed to the SQE, but the SRA persisted in the face of the evidence who people who actually know what they're talking about.

In summary, the current SRA is a mess and is widely disrespected. The BSB seems to have a far more sensible approach to regulation. The UK's legal regulatory structures are a mess, but in an ideal fantasy world, it would be great if the SRA, Legal Ombudsman et al were all disbanded, and a single 'super-regulator' created, based on the core of current BSB personnel who seem sane, certainly in contrast to the SRA.

Anonymous 08 January 21 10:49

The Law Society are meant to represent us.

How about they do that and call a vote amongst solicitors of no confidence in the SRA?

Clearly it wouldn't be legally binding but if passed it would be very difficult to see how the SRA could carry on as they are.

Dingo 08 January 21 11:45

And so after wasting hundred of thousands it has been determined, at least for the time being, that a lawyer does not contravene professional standards if they have consensual extra-marital sex.  Who would have thunk it? SRA = Woke joke.

Anon 08 January 21 12:29

SRA allowed management in my firm to self certify “nothing to see here” after they were caught red handed doctoring appraisal records to justify reducing pay for a group of partners who had criticised some of their behaviour. It was pretty nasty knowingly wrong action by very senior partners. But when a trainee makes a mistake and tried to rectify it up in a panic, they were all over him.

Anonymous 08 January 21 12:29

Like Lord Lester before him, Mr Beckwith has now been cleared of all wrongdoing by the BSB.

I am glad that we can therefore put this incident behind us.

Anonymous 08 January 21 15:14

The Beckeith case was brought at the height of #metoo hysteria. Unlikely it would be brought now.

Anon 08 January 21 18:12

Anonymous 08 January 21 12:29: The BSB do not regulate solicitors and Lord Lester wasn’t cleared by the BSB.

Anon 09 January 21 05:19

[email protected], is that the firm where they had to give a partner a 7million pay off to get him to agree to be silenced? Were other partners also paid off? 

Surely they cannot self certify “nothing to see here” to SRA as you state? SRA have to look into allegations of dishonesty.

Anon 09 January 21 08:14

Anonymous 08 January 21 22:36:

The BSB did not clear Lord Lester QC. They rather found that, despite harassing Ms Sanghera, he should not be sanctioned. The relevant part of the ruling, which is publicly available, is at paragraph 16 and provides: 

“The question which therefore falls to be determined is whether, in light of the findings against Lord Lester, he should be allowed to continue to practise. This has given us very anxious cause for consideration. After all, Lord Lester was found to have harassed Ms Sanghera and abused his position. Those findings stand, notwithstanding Ms Sanghera’s non-participation in the instant proceedings. We have no jurisdiction to revisit those findings or to interfere with them. We are driven to conclude, however, that notwithstanding Lord Lester’s conduct, he should not be subject to sanction. This is because he intends imminently to retire and does not intend to renew his Practising Certificate upon its expiry.”

Gobblepig 09 January 21 10:09

This is a terrible outcome. I really need the SRA's moralistic woke guidance to tell me how I should live my personal life and what I can do with my todger. And what's more, the public expects the SRA to be actively monitoring and prioritising control over solicitors' sex lives; without such joyless morality policing of our private lives, there is a real risk of damage to the perception and credibility of the profession. 


In the meantime, I shall go off and coach my witnesses by substantially writing and shaping their witness statements, campaign vigorously for societally-destructive class actions to be introduced to the UK, and sign up to DBAs that are no in my clients' best interests and put me in a position of professional conflict. 

Fake Partner 10 January 21 02:07

The only person who should have been outraged by Beckwith's conduct is his wife. 

Human 10 January 21 08:54

t isn't remotely mutually exclusive to 1) behave responsibly in your sexual behaviour to intoxicated junior staff at work events and for such restraint to fall far short of 'joyless morality policing' 2) not advise junior staff by doctoring appraisals and 3) not engage in money laundering etc. Enforcement of any of the above does not imply any deprioritisation of any of the other 2. Likewise there is no evidence of partisan bias. As some have rightly pointed out sexual libertarianism is more a theme of the left than the right.

I accept that I and many like me were wrong on the Beckwith case. We made excessive weight to the power inequality, and did not place enough emphasis on the fact that there never was any finding that the plaintiff did not consent or could not consent. That was the fatal flaw.

But let us take the reality of modern day (pre Covid) workplaces. Around 50 percent of women* (because yes, sex is real, on average men are different in their sexual behaviours to women are still badgered for sex by those who control their appraisals, their career progression. They still need to turn up to boozy work dos and charm the constituency that still dominates the partner dining room - older men. 

Somehow most partners manage not to sexually harass most female clients, and female superiors. They may be lustful but they are not idiots. The consequences of speaking out about handsy partners who always want a hug, comment on clothing, and make them feel uncomfortable will always be higher for the trainee than the partner. There are no way answers. Regulating with insufficient evidence of professional wrongdoing is not the answer.

I think the test is this: how many firms are a safe harbour to serial offenders about whom multiple complaints have been made, and the response has been limited to rotating trainee seat?

@ The SRA is important but mismanaged 08 January 21 10:41 13 January 21 05:18

Your comments have equal application in NSW, Australia between the Legal Services Commissioner and the Law Society its often difficult to determine who makes the worst decisions. They get taken out A LOT on appeal and end up paying out significant wads of cash in costs all of which comes from public funding. 

Another Anon 14 January 21 13:32

The regulatory requirement is to "act with integrity".  That imposes a moral or ethical standard of behaviour that rises above the bare minimum. 

The Court of Appeal appears to be saying that the requirement to "act with integrity" only applies to professional matters, so that solicitors may behave as disreputably as they like in their private life, as if the public sphere and private spheres were entirely separated.  But it is the same person, with the same morals and ethics, in each case.

Well, you may call it "joyless morality policing" if you like, but in my book, getting a junior colleague drunk, inveigling your way into their flat on a pretext, and then having a "sexual encounter" when you knew (or should have known) they were so drunk they could not remember it, is not "acting with integrity". 

Focusing too heavily on consent really means that solicitors can behave as they wish, as long as they are not convicted on charges of sexual assault or rape. That is a bare minimum standard of human behaviour.  We should expect solicitors to hold themselves to a higher standard. 

There are things solicitors should not do, even if those things are not criminal offences.  Yes, that involves making moral and ethical judgements. Sorry if that makes you feel uncomfortable.

Anonymous 14 January 21 21:10

13.32 - the problem is that it is not moral of ethical to point the finger and gossip about other people, or to behave in a sanctimonious way. People have different moral and ethical standards- some might also argue that they were both drunk so it was her fault as much as his, or that a junior person abused their position towards a drunk partner. The problem is who gets to be the moral of ethical arbiter, and where does it end.

The courts have correctly straightened out thd SRA and they now understand that consensual private matters are beyond their reach. If we applied your approach there would be no solicitors left.

Realist 14 January 21 21:41

To 14 January 2021 @13.32:


if she could not remember, then how and why did she give evidence against him? 

Regarding the rest, I hope you aren’t single. It’s a jungle out there and we long ago, about when I qualified, ceased being a profession. It’s Legal Business babe. 

Don’t even get me started on bedroom ethics. If we are really saying that Lawyers can’t have a private life, only Monks and Sisters need apply. Many things are morally questionable, but it’s personal where the line gets drawn. 

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