EILEEN Pembridge has accused the Law Society leadership of resisting her private calls for John Young to step down from office two years ago after “numerous” sexual harassment allegations were made against him.
Pembridge, a presidential candidate, says those who knew about the allegations and yet continued to back Young's presidential candidacy are now in an untenable position.
Young withdrew from the elections last week, following speculation that a senior council member was responsible for sexually harassing women, believed to be Chancery Lane staff and a council member, two years ago.
In a letter to Law Society president Charles Elly, Young admits to “minor” incidents, which were the subject of full inquiries. “I regarded the matter as closed.”
“I regret that references to allegations about my conduct made two years ago have been made into an election issue.”
Young says he was not forced to stand down but did so because he feared the allegations would weaken his candidacy and boost the chances for Martin Mears and his co-runner, the anti-Chancery Lane candidates.
“If I could have been certain to have seen off their challenge, I would not have withdrawn.”
Deputy vice president Henry Hodge, urged by Young to take his place, says numerous council members have urged him to stand although he is yet to make up his mind.
He distances himself from Young saying his proposed manifesto calling for “significant changes” would not have been compatible with the vice president's own platform.
Mears sympathises with Young and accuses Pembridge of pursuing “sanctimonious and pitiless” tactics by raising the sexual harassment issue.
In her statement, Pembridge maintains she had no intention of identifying Young when she asked Elly at a recent women lawyers conference what action had been taken over complaints procedures since allegations of sexual harassment were put to office-holders two years ago.
She says Young's identification as the “senior council member” rumoured to have been warned over harassment was an “accident waiting to happen”.
She claims she was overruled when she warned of the dangers of Young taking up the deputy vice president post.
“The then office-holders said they were prepared to take the risk; they felt it would not materialise,” she says.