Two successes for Richard Nelson LLP in university misconduct cases
25 Sep 2020
Final year student acquitted of sexual misconduct following lengthy university investigation
Associate Solicitor Richard Etherington successfully defended his client during misconduct proceedings brought against him by his university.
Richard’s client is a student at a prestigious university with an unblemished personal and academic record. In early 2019 he was notified by university officials that he was the subject of an investigation concerning his sexual contact with another student.
It was alleged that Richard’s client had coerced the complainant into having sex with him and took advantage of her while she was intoxicated several months prior. The client was bewildered by these allegations as he believed that all sexual contact was consensual and that he believed he and the complainant, who he considered a friend, had a good relationship before and after the night in question.
Through meticulous preparation Richard was able to assist his client in drafting a comprehensive statement which addressed the complainant’s allegations in full. It quickly became apparent that the complainant had intended to deceive university authorities in an attempt to direct attention away from her academic performance.
This statement was submitted to the investigators alongside substantial written representations.
On reviewing the evidence the university was satisfied with the client’s version of events and cleared him of any wrongdoing without the need to convene a formal disciplinary hearing.
After receiving the good news Richard’s client said “I’m extremely happy with the treatment and the advice given. Richard Etherington dealt with my case a professional and helpful manner and I’m glad that I sought his counsel. The case was resolved in the best manner possible.”
Student cleared by University officials following police investigation
Richard’s client, an undergraduate student, was the subject of a police investigation following an allegation of rape.
The student invited a large group of friends to a house party to celebrate his birthday. One of the guests was a woman with whom he had a casual sexual relationship previously.
The Complainant alleged that Richard’s client had raped her in his bedroom while the party continued downstairs. Our client’s account was that all sexual contact was entirely consensual and they returned to the party after having sex. A complaint was made to the police several weeks later.
During a formal police interview our client provided the investigators with contact details of various witnesses who could describe the behaviour of the Complainant at the party including one person who had walked in on them in the act. In the weeks and months which followed the police did not follow up this important line of enquiry, so Richard and Megan interviewed and took statements from five witnesses. Correspondence in the form of text messages and letters were obtained which showed that the Complainant became angry after learning that our client had started a new relationship. All of which was served on the police.
The case was quickly dropped due to lack of evidence to support a prosecution.
The Complainant, on learning that no further action would be taken, repeated the allegation to our Client’s university which initiated a separate inquiry. This resulted in our client being suspended from his course and banned from campus at a crucial time of the academic year.
Richard provided the university with all evidence which had been served on the police and made robust representations on his behalf. On reviewing the evidence the university discontinued its intervention.
Richard Etherington said, “In criminal proceedings and investigations the Crown Prosecution Service and Police must prove allegations to the standard of ‘beyond all reasonable doubt’. This high burden means that Magistrates or a Jury will only convict a Defendant if they are sure of a Defendant’s guilt. University investigations work to the lesser civil standard of ‘the balance of probabilities’. This means that if a University finds that an incident is more likely than not to have occurred; the accused will face sanctions. The gulf between the criminal and civil burdens means that students who are acquitted of, or not charged with, criminal offences are often investigated by their university afterwards.”
Each university has different powers and procedures however the sanctions available to a disciplinary committee or proctor typically include removing a student from the course, excluding them from certain parts of campus or, fines. It is vitally important that any student facing an investigation by their institution seeks advice from a Solicitor as soon as possible.
Contact Richard Nelson LLP if you need advice or representation in a university misconduct case.