Last week, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) found that lawyer Ryan Beckwith had breached principles two and six of the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) 2011 code of conduct over an incident involving sexual activity with a junior female colleague who was "intoxicated to the extent that her judgment was impaired". The principles require solicitors to act with integrity, and to behave in a way that maintained the public's trust in the legal profession.
Beckwith was ordered to pay £235,000 in fines and costs. He has also resigned from his partnership role. The SDT made no findings on the issue of sexual conduct and consent.
The SDT is yet to publish its full judgement in the case. However, Palmer said that the verdict "sends a clear message to the profession".
"No criminal proceedings are required for the SRA to apply its disciplinary reach over regulated individuals, and professional services regulators have a lower burden of proof than any criminal proceedings," she said.
"The new codes of conduct for individuals and firms coming into force from 25 November 2019 impose higher self-reporting obligations than ever before for solicitors," she said.
The SRA's new standards and regulations are designed to be more flexible and less prescriptive than the existing rules, while strengthening protections for consumers of legal services and client money. They include separate codes of conduct for individuals and firms; simpler account rules and a revised enforcement strategy.
Under the new code of conduct, solicitors will be required to promptly report any regulatory breaches by firms or individuals, including themselves, to the SRA.