Law firm partner fined thousands for asking if it was acceptable to call a gay trainee a ‘poofter’
A senior partner at a law firm in Leicester has ben fined £4,000 after he asked if it was acceptable to call a gay trainee a “poofter”.
Charles Jerome Darby, a commercial partner at Freeths’ law firm in Leicester, made the comment at an informal gathering with staff in July 2019.
Responding to a comment by a colleague, Darby said it had become acceptable in some circumstances to refer to a traveller as a gypsy.
He then asked if it would also be acceptable to refer to a gay trainee solicitor – who was in earshot – as a “poofter”.
Darby then repeated the slur when the trainee solicitor asked him what he had said.
Solicitor Charles Jerome Darby was fined for using ‘offensive language’ at the Leicester law firm.
The gay trainee solicitor complained to the law firm about the partner’s conduct and a disciplinary investigation began.
He was found to have used offensive language and was sanctioned for his behaviour, and was given a warning over his conduct.
Darby also offered to apologise to the gay trainee solicitor over the comment.
The legal partner was also sanctioned for breaking accountancy rules laid out by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) in a separate case.
Mr Darby had direct responsibility for his conduct.
In its ruling, the SRA ordered Darby to pay a £4,000 fine as well as the £600 incurred in the process of the investigation.
The ruling stated: “The firm found that Mr Darby had used offensive language and he was sanctioned for his behaviour.”
Darby admitted to breaching principles six and nine of the SRA’s Principles 2011.
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He had ‘direct responsibility’ for repeatedly saying ‘poofter’.
The SRA said it was implementing a £4,000 fine because there had been a failure to meet the standards and requirements of the organisation.
The regulatory body said the fine was appropriate because Darby had co-operated with the investigation and he had offered to apologise to the gay trainee solicitor.
Furthermore, the ruling said the fine will deter Darby and others from engaging in similar behaviour in the future.
“Mr Darby had direct responsibility for his conduct. He is a manager of the firm and as such is expected to have a greater understanding of the need to respect and encourage diversity and of the SRA’s rules about handling client money.”
They said the fine would help to uphold professional standards among solicitors and said they had decided to publish the ruling “in the interests of transparency”.