Doctoral candidate allowed to remain at university despite a finding of sexual misconduct

Legal Team
  • Richard Etherington
  • Ben Shellard
  • Megan Delaney
Contract Type
Private Client
Legal Service
Criminal Defence

Richard Etherington, Associate Solicitor, recently represented a gentleman undertaking a PhD at a very prestigious university before a misconduct panel.

Our client was accused of kissing and touching a fellow student after walking with her to a library. Other unwanted sexual touching was also alleged. In responding to the allegation, our client was adamant that the complainant initiated the kiss and, as a result, he genuinely believed she was consenting throughout.

To support the client during the hearing, Ben Shellard, paralegal, assisted the client in preparing a detailed written response that was served on the university.

The evidence against our client consisted of the complainant’s version of events and a handful of disclosure witnesses. As there were no factual witnesses to the kiss, the character of the parties was key. Therefore, Megan Delaney, trainee solicitor, set about gathering character statements from over a dozen people, who could attest to our client’s good character and admirable conduct in the past.

After a lengthy hearing, the disciplinary committee unfortunately found against our client and found that the allegations had been proven against him. However, following robust representations by Richard Etherington, during which he clinically applied the sanction guidelines, the committee were persuaded to impose relatively low-level sanctions. This allowed our client to remain at university and complete his research; albeit subject to restrictions baring him from parts of campus.

After the hearing, Richard said, “The stakes in this case were extremely high. Were the university to have exercised their discretion in terminating our client’s studies, his academic career would have been in pieces. Although it was disappointing that the committee found against him, I am delighted that our client was able to remain at the university.

The outcome of this case is an excellent example of Ben, Megan and me working together to achieve a good result for a client in difficult circumstances.”

Student misconduct inquiries and university disciplinary processes vary between institutions, but the sanctions can have serious consequences for ongoing academic study. Richard Nelson LLP’s student misconduct lawyers advise and defend students faced with allegations from their universities and their families.

Please contact us to find out more.

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