Community Assistant AccountingWEB
In association with
Share this content
Airplane taking off
istock_airplane_guvendemir
Tags:

Accountant reprimanded over mid-flight sexual assault

by

In this December disciplinary round-up, AWEB investigates an instance in which an ICAEW member sexually and violently assaulted a passenger mid-flight.

21st Dec 2020
Community Assistant AccountingWEB
In association with
Share this content

As always, Blake Morgan LLP consultant/solicitor Chris Cope gives his take and explains what accountants can learn from these cases.

James Phipps

A tribunal of the ICAEW disciplinary committee found member James Phipps guilty of an offence of ‘Simple Assault’ after an incident where he became intoxicated on a flight and assaulted a female passenger.

During May 2018, James Phipps was aboard a British Airways flight travelling from Dulles, Virginia, to London Heathrow Airport. During the incident, the flight was within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States. 

Phipps was seated in an aisle seat, two seats away from a female passenger who did not know Phipps. The middle seats between them were empty.

While the plane was in flight, she was suddenly awoken by Phipps groping her chest. He reportedly leaned over, grabbed her by the neck and tried to pull her towards him to kiss her.

Shocked, she tried to push him away, yelling for him to get off of her. Phipps then took the female passenger’s hardcover book and threw it directly at her, hitting her in the face. 

The woman reported the incident to a flight attendant and was moved to another seat. Over a year later, during July 2019, Phipps was arrested in relation to this incident. He did not face any repercussions at the time of the event.

Appearing before the United States District Court in Virginia during August 2019, Phipps pleaded guilty to one offence of Simple Assault.

For his actions, Phipps was sentenced to 30 days supervised probation with the following conditions:

  • 10 days imprisonment
  • A further 10 days of home confinement with electronic monitoring
  • $25 special assessment payment by 30 September 2019

According to Phipps’ legal team, he was so intoxicated during the flight that he had “no memory” of the incident, but took full responsibility for what he did. They also reported that he had remained sober since its occurence.

The prosecutor highlighted the mental and psychological damage that the female passenger continued to suffer, stating that she had started receiving therapy and was in fear of flying because of the assault.

In September 2019, ICAEW’s Professional Conduct Department (PCD) received information from Phipp's former employers in relation to the offence.

Although Phipps’ misconduct was seen as likely to bring discredit on himself, ICAEW and the profession of accountancy, the Disciplinary Committee took the view that an exception could be made in this case to the recommended starting point for an offence of this kind. 

A severe reprimand was deemed the appropriate sanction together with costs of £5060.

Chris Cope, consultant to Blake Morgan LLP, comments:

A criminal conviction for an act of violence will, inevitably, result in disciplinary proceedings. Where that conviction leads to a term of imprisonment (in this case - ten days),the starting point when the Disciplinary Committee considers sanctions is exclusion from membership. An aggravating feature in this case was that Mr Phipps did not self-report to the ICAEW.

Mr Phipps represented himself. In the circumstances, bearing in mind the possibility of exclusion, I think that this was a high-risk strategy. He would have been well advised to be legally represented.

The mitigation included confirmation from his present employers that Mr Phipps' employment would continue, despite the conviction, and 13 references.

A severe reprimand was undoubtedly a fair and reasonable outcome. However, I was surprised that there was no fine. In fact, of the five cases published (all handled digitally), no fines were imposed. This must be unprecedented. Furthermore, not one of the five was legally represented.

Do readers believe this sanction was fair?

If you are presently subject to a complaint or want more information about Chris Cope and Blake Morgan LLP, solicitors, you can visit their website here.

Tags:

Replies (24)

Please login or register to join the discussion.

avatar
By carnmores
21st Dec 2020 16:28

Mr Phipps represented himself. In the circumstances, bearing in mind the possibility of exclusion, I think that this was a high-risk strategy. He would have been well advised to be legally represented.

well a lawyer would say that wouldn't they.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By memyself-eye
21st Dec 2020 21:34

Who cares?

Thanks (0)
rebecca cave
By Rebecca Cave
22nd Dec 2020 09:10

He should have lost his job, and been kicked out of ICAEW.

Thanks (8)
Replying to Rebecca Cave:
avatar
By Trethi Teg
22nd Dec 2020 09:21

I do hope that Rebecca doesnt break her Xmas bubble or move out of London for Xmas and get caught - that is also a criminal offence and far more likely to lead to peoples death. Then would she be sacked and excluded? Of course not. One rule for some.............

Go after the accountants in London and large cities who are turning a blind eye to money laundering and drug trafficking on a huge scale. If the ICAEW cant find them I am sure there are plenty of members who know precisely who they are.

Thanks (0)
Replying to Trethi Teg:
By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
22nd Dec 2020 09:34

@Trethi so you are saying its fine to grope woman if you are drunk? Have you been asleep for the past 100 years and missed the bit where women are now allowed to travel freely alone without a chaperone, and not expect to be attacked at any minute. I know, crazy eh! Next they will be getting the vote!

No idea why you are randomly accusing Rebecca of breaking the Covid rules.

Thanks (9)
Replying to ireallyshouldknowthisbut:
avatar
By Trethi Teg
22nd Dec 2020 10:07

I can't recall saying sexual attacks on women are fine and I certainly havent been asleep for the last 100 years. I also didnt randomly accuse Rebecca od doing anything.

You really are quite offensive aren't you. How would that play if a man said such things to a woman.

Another idea is we should shoot all those who do stupid things when they are drunk. Or perhaps hang draw and quarter them. How would that suit.

The points I was making were:

I my experience anyone who calls for action against someone else really has to look at their conduct first. If Rebecca has never committed a criminal offense then thats great and she can congrtualte herself as being, probably, the only member of the Institue who has a clean record. Simply turning a blind eye to the client who has their hand in the till is a criminal offense. And before you respond I do not equate a sexual assault to putting your hand in the till. Simply making the general point.

The next point os that those who are in positions of influence, men as well as women seem to be able to get away with thier conduct.

Finally I feel that the disciplinary body of the ICAEW ( indeed the ICAEW as a whole) should spend far more time seeking out and dealing with those in the profession who faciliate (or turn a blind eye) those who launder drugs money, people smugglers etc whose activities cause far more damage, particularly to women, then an individual issue already dealt with by the courts.

Please no more clever and offensive responses!

Thanks (0)
Replying to ireallyshouldknowthisbut:
All Paul Accountants in Leeds
By paulinleeds
10th Jan 2021 20:48

I totally deplore what James Phipps has done and in no way condone his actions. Being so drunk you don’t know what you have done is really no excuse. He should not have been that drunk on an aeroplane.

However, have to respond to Rebecca saying ‘He should have lost his job, and been kicked out of ICAEW’ as on the face of it this is far too drastic. If this was a regular occurrence then that would be a different question.

What I really have a problem with, is when an accountancy body turns around and says that he brought ‘discredit on himself, ICAEW and the profession of accountancy’. In my opinion, unless James Phipps was wearing a T shirt saying ‘I’m an accountant and a member of ICAEW’ how on earth can he bring discredit on his an accountancy body?

Arguably, somebody using their mobile phone whilst driving is going to have a much greater chance of inflicting injury and death on somebody than the actions that James Phipps did. Are you really going to throw everybody out of the accountancy profession who commits an offence?

Fine him using the criminal justice system. However, don’t deprive him of making his livelihood.

Thanks (0)
Replying to Rebecca Cave:
By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
22nd Dec 2020 09:27

@ Rebecca. Random sex attack on a woman? Well never mind old chap, you were drunk, it was only some woman or other so that's all OK, have to give you a tap on the wrist of course, but no harm done eh. See you at golf?

Its not a good look is it?

Thanks (5)
Replying to ireallyshouldknowthisbut:
avatar
By Trethi Teg
22nd Dec 2020 09:37

Well, Well, Well.

Firstly it is assumed that I am male, secondly it assumes that I play golf, thirdly it assumes I condone attacks on women, fourthly it assumes I drink to excess.

If this was aimed at a lady I would be attacked for sexual stereotyping. I though this was the sought of thing that was frowned upon these days.

Lets hope the assumptions you make on behalf of your clients are a little more accurate. An aplogy for inaccurate assumptions would be in order before your comments are reported as being sexually offensive.

Thanks (0)
Replying to Trethi Teg:
By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
22nd Dec 2020 11:21

@Trethi. This symbol "@" means a response is aimed at you.

The golf comment was aimed at Rebecca's post, to mock what appears to be an old boys "brushing under the carpet" by ICAEW of what sounds like a horrible incidence.

It was actually written before I saw your post, or wrote the comment to you about your horrendous post which would appear to belittle sexual assault and randomly accuse Rebecca for suggesting a tap on the wrist is OK. Note the times of post.

Do carry on trolling, I am not playing!

Thanks (3)
Replying to ireallyshouldknowthisbut:
avatar
By Trethi Teg
22nd Dec 2020 12:28

Horrendous post! Are you serious! I would have made the same point if it had been a woman assaulting a man.

You clearly missed the main points I was making. Are you going to comment on them.

If not then this forum is not the correct place to disply your prejudice and stereotyping of all men.

Thanks (0)
Replying to Trethi Teg:
avatar
By Mr_awol
22nd Dec 2020 13:16

I'm not in complete agreement with iReallyShouldKnowThisBut - in that i dont consider your post completely 'horrendous' BUT, you did kind of suggest in your post that squeezing some strange woman's [***] whilst she was asleep on a plane was hardly the crime of the century, compared to (say) travelling outside of Tier four.

I'm not going to get into which is worse, whether in fact there's no harm done, etc. For the record I'm not convinced it's quite a 'get kicked out of The Institute and (probably) lose your job as a result' offence, particularly when it has already been dealt with by the legal system. It is, however, more serious than your casual comparison makes it out to be. Furthermore, I'm not sure why you are aiming your comment at Rebecca and comparing hypothetical actions which i don't imagine she has taken, to this case. Fair enough reply to her indicating your disagreement with her suggested course of action.

Thanks (2)
Replying to Trethi Teg:
By Duggimon
08th Jan 2021 10:42

The main points you were making was that kicking someone out of the institute for committing a sexual assault was excessive, and everyone else disagrees with you because it's a ridiculous stance to take.

Nobody is stereotyping all men, their low opinion of you is based solely on your posting.

Thanks (3)
Replying to Rebecca Cave:
avatar
By Paul Crowley
23rd Dec 2020 13:01

He cannot remember
USA has a compensation culture
Witnesses?

Or is it One persons word
Why did nothing happen at the time

Thanks (0)
avatar
By Justin Bryant
23rd Dec 2020 10:05

He would be better suited as a Tory MP by the sound of things.

Thanks (2)
Replying to Justin Bryant:
avatar
By Mr_awol
23rd Dec 2020 10:15

Indeed.

"Im a naughty accountant" just doesn't have the same ring to it.

Thanks (2)
avatar
By Paul Crowley
23rd Dec 2020 13:05

By Paul Crowley
22nd Dec 2020 18:37
YES
Old legal joke but

The person who represents himself has an idiot as a client

Same could be said about tax agents (DIY tax based on google and aweb answers)

Posting on the acca one where thea ccountant tried to extort fees despite being sober

Thanks (0)
avatar
By Paul Crowley
23rd Dec 2020 13:12

A severe reprimand was deemed the appropriate sanction together with costs of £5060.

For 2 minutes of drunken not remembered stupidity that was not dealt with at the time other than to move seats

Edit
Forgot
and the publicity and Aweb publication

Thanks (0)
avatar
By Paul Crowley
23rd Dec 2020 13:15

Come on Tallula
Look at all the other bodies
I bullied you into looking at ACCA
Try the tax people and the minor bodies

Thanks (0)
avatar
By Paul Crowley
23rd Dec 2020 13:34

Finally printed out the 61 pages

And you picked the only salacious item
Fing shame on you

Thanks (0)
Replying to Paul Crowley:
avatar
By carnmores
23rd Dec 2020 13:44

a christmas carol?

Thanks (0)
avatar
By Mr J Andrews
08th Jan 2021 10:50

I recall reading about Phipps' groping incident in the national press last month. What a complete and utter gutter person he must be.
Excuses like not remembering the incident and a ''one-off'' event really make me puke.
Fair punishment in the States , followed by being kicked out of his security with one of the Big 5 may seem adequate punishment. But gainful employment shortly ensued. The lady concerned continues with therapy for the pig's attack. { Sorry pigs - no insult to you intended }.
Yes other crimes occur such as those mentioned { money-laundering , drug trafficking etc }.
But the poor lady concerned surely wouldn't appreciate the context.

Thanks (3)
avatar
By maasrw
08th Jan 2021 12:11

It is worth noting that the disciplinary tribunal consisted of two women and one man and that the US court seems to have regarded the assault as minor. The real issue seems to me to be whether the ICAEW is giving an appropriate message to the public when it decides that assaulting a stranger when drunk brings the profession into dispute, but that publically reprimanding the member is an adequate response. Like Chris, I think that expulsion from the ICAEW would have been an over-reaction, but a simple reprimand appears hardly adequate.

Thanks (0)
Replying to maasrw:
avatar
By Trethi Teg
08th Jan 2021 12:36

I am glad to see that there is someone who has a balanced view of this. I get the impression that most respondents would be happy to see the person hung drawn and quartered. As I previously said - look to yourself first. If you are squeaky clean and have never done anything wrong then please fire away with both barrles. I suspect if that approach were adopted there would be glorious silence and certainly no gunfire.

Thanks (0)