Ladas & Parry IP lawyer put on sex offenders’ register for bus grope

An international IP lawyer has been put on the sex offenders’ register for groping a woman on a bus.

Ladas & Parry solicitor Hugh Robert Wotherspoon was given a three-year supervision order and put on a sexual behaviour programme by Judge Peter Hughes QC at Carlisle Crown Court on Friday (31 August).

Wotherspoon specialised in patent applications from his firm’s offices in Bolt Court, London. He qualified in 1985 and was an associate with the firm.

He had admitted “trying it on” with the woman, but denied any criminal offence, saying he believed the woman enjoyed him fondling her thigh on a National Express bus travelling south on the M6 from Edinburgh.

He was arrested at Tebay services when the victim complained to the bus driver.

Wotherspoon, a French-speaking 54-year-old married father-of-two, was represented by 1 Inner Temple Lane barrister Madeleine Wolfe, who was instructed by Patrick Shimmin, a director at MPG Solicitors, Carlisle.

Wolfe described her client as “an unconventional character”, the Westmoreland Gazette reported, who finds it “very difficult to simply speak to women”.

At an earlier hearing, Wotherspoon was convicted of assaulting the woman by touching her in a sexual manner to which she did not consent.

Today, a spokesman for the firm told The Lawyer that the case had “come as a complete and utter shock” to his former colleagues. The spokesman said patent lawyer Wotherspoon had handed in a letter of resignation immediately after his conviction last month.

He said there had never been any concerns raised about Wotherspoon’s behaviour during his time with the firm, which included stints in New York in the late 1990s and Munich, Germany in 2006-7. The spokesman added that Wotherspoon had been based in the London office for the past four to five years, the spokesman said.

The spokesman said the “sudden development” meant there would be a re-organisation of Wotherspoon’s responsibilities to other lawyers.

Solicitors have a duty to declare any criminal convictions to the SRA, who also liaise regularly with the courts. Wotherspoon will now face separate disciplinary proceedings, where the SRA will examine his case and decide if it can deal with it ‘in-house’ by way of a maximum fine of £2,000 and reprimand.

The SRA may also decide to refer his case to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) if it feels Wotherspoon poses a risk or danger to his profession, practice or the public. The SDT have unlimited fining powers and can also strike off lawyers.

Judge Hughes said he found the case “deeply troubling” and that Wotherspoon had “brought disgrace” on himself and embarrassed his family.

He said: “I struggle to see how any man of mature years and high intelligence could possibly have considered it appropriate to do what he did.

The judge fined Wotherspoon £3,500 and told him to pay the woman £1,000 compensation.