A former boss at international firm Baker McKenzie has told the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal that he experienced ‘very dark’ moments when he was being investigated over an alleged incident that occurred with a junior associate in a hotel room.
Gary Senior, who was London managing partner for eight years, was being questioned by Patricia Robertson QC, counsel for the firm, on the fifth day of a 15-day substantial hearing over alleged sexual harassment dating from 2012. Senior was asked about the firm’s processes during an investigation and emails he sent in the days after the junior associate, known in the proceedings as ‘Person A’, submitted a complaint.
Discussing one particular email exchange, Robertson said: ‘In view of your dark moments, you went on to say to Thomas Cassels in the second email “Please keep it confidential. Just I have no one to talk to. The dark moments are very, very dark”.’
Robertson asked Senior if he was prepared to concede that he risked creating a perception that he was overly involved in the investigative process. Senior replied: ‘I agree if you read those email records cold it looks odd. At the time I was never once told “you should not have sent that email, stop sending emails”. I did not think this matter was handled inappropriately. I do not disagree when you look at it in the cold light six or seven years later there is stuff that needs explaining.’
Earlier, Senior’s barrister, Gregory Treverton-Jones QC, told the tribunal that his client ‘was apparently very discomfited by some of the body language of a senior member of the Verein during the course of cross-examination yesterday’.
The tribunal chair told Senior: ‘I’m sorry that happened. None of us noticed anything ourselves. What may have happened has not had any effect on us. But it is wrong that any kind of body language or reaction should take a witness off course. I would be grateful if everyone could be mindful of that.’
Robertson added: ‘Everyone is reminded we need to keep emotions under control.’
Senior, admitted in 1986, is accused of trying to embrace and kiss Person A in 2012 despite receiving no indication of consent, and persisting despite Person A indicating that it was not appropriate. Senior, who last year left Baker McKenzie, allegedly acted knowing he was in a position of authority and responsibility. He denies the allegation.
Thomas Kennedy Cassels and Martin Lawrence Blackburn, who were with Baker McKenzie in 2012 as a partner and head of HR respectively, are being prosecuted by the Solicitors Regulation Authority in relation to the investigation that began when Person A made a complaint. The firm is also being prosecuted.
The hearing continues.