A former Clyde & Co partner has been rebuked by the Solicitors Regulation Authority for having “failed to have sufficient regard for the well-being of a female trainee solicitor” at a work-related event in 2017.
Peter Walmsley was a partner in Clyde & Co’s catastrophic injury practice in Manchester when the event took place, but was dismissed from the firm in 2018. He is now a partner with the law firm Horwich Farrelly.
According to the U.K. industry regulator’s decision published today, Walmsley has agreed to the publication of the rebuke and to pay the costs of the SRA’s investigation, which amounts to £600.
The SRA found that at the event in question on 23 November 2017, Walmsley’s failure to have “sufficient regard” for the trainee’s well-being “caused her to experience discomfort and distress”.
The decision details how the event started with colleagues and clients meeting at a local Christmas market, and that the party then moved on to a number of bars and participated in a pre-arranged activity.
Later in the evening, the group went to a club which “was staffed by women wearing underwear, who were visible to customers including [the trainee], Mr Walmsley and the rest of their party, in the open areas and were available to customers for private dances in a separate area to where the party was seated.”
The SRA noted that neither Walmsley nor the trainee realised the nature of the club until prior to entry—and that Walmsley was also unaware that the trainee had even entered the club until he saw her inside.
The trainee is described in the decision as feeling “uncomfortable” upon entering the club, but that “she felt obliged to stay for a short period, primarily because she did not want to embarrass the clients of the firm.”
During their time in the club, Walmsley “placed his hand around her waist”. According to the decision, this was done without any improper or sexual motivation on his part—but it is noted that it was “unwanted” by the trainee, and “compounded her discomfort, particularly in view of the environment they were in”.
Walmsley has been rebuked by the SRA, but no fine was given.
Explaining its decision, the SRA noted that Mr Walmsley, after the events of 23 November 2017, “discovered that [the trainee] had felt uncomfortable that night and apologised to her as soon as he discovered this”.
At the time of his dismissal from the firm, Clyde & Co said the following: “Clyde & Co is committed to a working environment that is inclusive, professional and respectful. We hold ourselves to the highest standards of behaviour and expect all of our partners and staff to act with integrity, maintain high ethical standards and to respect local and global regulatory environments at all times.
“We do not tolerate inappropriate behaviour. When allegations are made we will investigate and take appropriate action while maintaining the privacy of those involved.
“Allegations of inappropriate behaviour were made against a partner by two junior members of staff. When the allegations came to light we carried out an internal investigation. The outcome of the investigation is that the partner has been dismissed from the firm with immediate effect. Out of respect for the privacy of those concerned we will not be commenting further.”
In a statement today, Horwich Farrelly said: “This incident occurred over 5 years ago and Peter Walmsley now manages a very successful team at Horwich Farrelly. During his time here he has performed with impeccable conduct and with the full support of his team and clients who were made fully aware of the facts.”
“Howrich Farrelly take issues of this nature very seriously and agree with the SRA findings that Peter should not have put himself or others in this position. The SRA have noted that there was absolutely no intent from Peter on the evening in question to attend a club of that nature, and there was no sexual or inappropriate motive or intent behind his actions.
“Immediately after the event, and in the years since, Peter has shown that he has taken the matter extremely seriously and regrets the incident wholeheartedly. He has focused on his personal development to ensure he always puts the wellbeing of every team member first, in every situation. It is due to his constructive approach since the event that Horwich Farrelly believed he deserved the chance to further his career.”
Walmsley was unavailable for comment.