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Groping secretary and telling racist jokes – senior solicitor tribunal

A tribunal has found a senior solicitor guilty of racist jokes and sexual harassment as he ran through the offices pretending to be a Ku Klux Klan member.

Samuel Maurice Charkham, aged 68 now faces a bill of over £50,000 which breaks down into a fine of £30,000 and £21,000 in costs. Mr. Charkham was a partner at the law firm Simkins, which was founded by Sir Cliff Richards. He had been a qualified solicitor for 43 years.

The disciplinary tribunal for solicitors heard that Charkham repeatedly touched a female staff member on her bottom. On another occasion he had run around the office calling her name, while wearing a white A4 envelope on his head and shouting that he had joined the KKK.

Additionally, in 2016, while at a party Charkham told a racist joke in the presence of the woman who is black. He habitually squeezed her buttocks.

The claimant, an account manager at the firm told the tribunal that she had complained when he touched her bottom in 2018. She further complained that he made antisemitic jokes, even though he is Jewish himself.

Charkham accepted that his jokes were in bad taste but denied ever groping anyone. He insisted that he is ‘not a racist’, but simply has an old-fashioned sense of humour.

Jonathan Goodwin, who represented Charkham stated that he had a list of positive character references, and he read them to the tribunal. He went further to praise Charkham’s professionalism and his capacity to deal with people.

Mr. Goodwin said that Charkham was a ‘person of integrity and of good character.’ The personal references he provided were positive and compelling, describing the nature of Mr. Charkham. He added that the findings did not affect his ability to practice.

Head of the tribunal panel Jane Martineau differed in her opinion and ordered the fine and costs. She recommended that Charkham undergo training in equality, diversity, and inclusion. 

Ms Martineau said that a solicitor should lead by example. The failure to do this in this respect was very serious and was reflected in the fine amount.

Several staff members were also questioned, and they said that they had simply grown accustomed to his racist and sexist behavior. His secretary admitted that he had groped her ‘at least 18 times’ over the previous four years. This happened ‘as often as he wanted it to.’

When Mr. Charkham ran through the offices, she had been sitting at her desk ready to take dictation from another lawyer. Charkham ran around in front of them, with a white envelope on his head and saying that he had joined the KKK. The secretary was shocked at his actions.

A spokesperson from the firm of Simpkins said that Charkham had left the firm more than two years before and they had also reported his actions to the regulator.

Since leaving Simpkins, Charkham had later worked for the West End law firm Porter Law. On learning about the incident, the firm had removed him as a consultant even though the actions took place before he began work at Porter Law.

The tribunal’s judgment will be published in December.

 

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