Solicitor harassed female colleagues through gender committee role

Married City solicitor, 41, harassed female colleagues through his role on a gender committee, tribunal rules

  • Tribunal has now delivered its written judgement after he was struck off in June 

A married solicitor who was found guilty of 70 acts of sexual misconduct hid behind his position on a gender inequality committee to harass female colleagues, a tribunal has found.

Oliver Bretherton, 41, took advantage of an 18-year-old junior colleague for over a year at international law firm Gowling WLG, where he was a director.

He was said to have engaged in a ‘sexual fantasy relationship’ with the teenager, who was in her first job out of school, sending her explicit messages and instructions about what to wear.

The young woman was among three junior female colleagues who Bretherton subjected to unwanted attention, which began in 2017 when he was aged 36. 

The tribunal has now said that his position on a gender committee and flexible working due to parental responsibilities was ‘advanced in an attempt to camouflage and detract from his nefarious conduct’, the Law Gazette reports.

Married Oliver Bretherton, 41, became obsessed with an 18-year-old school leaver when they worked at international law firm Gowling WLG

He bombarded Person A with demands for explicit pictures and videos, sent her a video of himself performing a sex act and threw ping-pong balls down her top in the office

The revelation comes after Bretherton’s career was ended by a panel at the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal in June after it found him guilty of 70 instances of misconduct against the three women. 

The tribunal’s written judgment, which is 82 pages long, was published on Friday and outlines how Bretherton showed a ‘demonstrable theme of misogyny directed at young women’.

Panel chairman Gerald Sydenham branded Bretherton’s behaviour between March 2017 and January 2019 an ‘abuse of his position’.

Then a senior solicitor, Bretherton first met the 18-year-old, known as Person A, during a job interview as she was studying for her A-Levels.

They went on to exchange messages a month after she joined the firm, with Bretherton pestering the apprentice into sending him pictures of herself topless and in her underwear.

He instructed her to sleep with a man she was meeting for a date and send him pictures of them having sex without a condom – which she did.

The lawyer sent her a video of himself performing a solo sex act and threw ping pong balls in her top, the tribunal also heard.

It found his behaviour towards her had been ‘sexually motivated, controlling and unreasonable’. 

‘Mr Bretherton’s misconduct was intrusive, indecent and took place both at work and outside of work,’ the panel said.

‘While the tribunal accepted that Person A wanted to be noticed within the firm, Mr Bretherton took advantage of her age, naivete and the fact that it was her first job after leaving school.’

The tribunal went on to say that he had displayed a ‘demonstrable theme of misogyny directed at young women’.

It struck him off the solicitors’ roll in June and ordered him to pay £23,500 in costs at the end of the marathon case, which lasted two months. 

Mr Bretherton is thought to be the first solicitor to be expelled from the profession for non-criminal sexual conduct in the workplace. 

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