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.