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Monday 21 October 2019

Law firm employee probed over group's 'offensive' texts about trainee solicitors

Controversy: The Law Society’s base in Blackhall Place, Dublin. Photo: Kyran O’Brien
Controversy: The Law Society’s base in Blackhall Place, Dublin. Photo: Kyran O’Brien

Amy Molloy and Wayne O'Connor

A major international law firm has confirmed that one of its employees is being investigated over a "highly offensive" text messaging group about female trainee solicitors.

Law students are to be offered counselling services over the content of the WhatsApp group - called "T*ts and Filth" - after it was uncovered at the Law Society of Ireland.

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The society is continuing its investigation into the WhatsApp group.

In a statement to the Irish Independent, the major law firm, which has offices across the world, says it is taking the matter "extremely seriously".

"This firm is aware that one of its trainees is the subject of an investigation being carried out by the Law Society of Ireland," the spokesperson said.

"As this matter is being investigated it would be inappropriate for us to comment any further but we take this matter extremely seriously and will take all appropriate actions on the completion of the investigation."

Dublin Rape Crisis Centre CEO Noeline Blackwell. Photo: Tony Gavin
Dublin Rape Crisis Centre CEO Noeline Blackwell. Photo: Tony Gavin

Text messages sent by a man who was allegedly in the group - seen by the Irish Independent - claim there was "never any mention of any woman".

He also insisted the group was deleted, adding reports about the content of the group was an "untrue rumour".

The Law Society has now arranged special counselling for trainee solicitors affected "directly or indirectly" by the messaging group, which had been circulating "inappropriate content" about students.

Expert classes and psychological services will commence next week after an internal probe was launched into the messaging group at the Law Society in Blackhall Place, Dublin.

The law school's psychological services manager, Antoinette Moriarty, wrote to students assuring them anyone "affected by recent events - directly or indirectly" has the school's full support.

Individual counselling sessions and psychotherapist facilitated small group sessions will now be available to discuss the impact of the activity.

"Furthermore, you will receive a number of educational inputs from appropriate experts to address the complexity of this issue," Ms Moriarty said.

It is understood that students will be made aware of more specific details on Monday.

Noeline Blackwell, CEO of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, said that the title of the group was "obnoxious and unacceptable".

Ms Blackwell said it would also be good to know how many people were in the group, as it is probably the case that a "lot of people wanted nothing to do with it".

"It is important that there is recognition that this sort of behaviour, and calling a group 'T*ts and Filth' is obnoxious and unacceptable," she added.

TP Kennedy, director of education at the Law Society, said the group was "posting inappropriate content relating to female students", which has given rise to "profound ethical concerns".

"Several students have provided the Law Society with details and we are investigating them," he warned.

Mr Kennedy said the "messages have caused deep distress to many students" and said "this kind of behaviour will not be tolerated and has no place on a professional training course".

Students were told the posting of inappropriate content may have the effect of bringing the profession into disrepute.

Mr Kennedy also said students generating or circulating offensive content raises concerns about whether a person might be a "fit and proper person to be admitted as a solicitor".

An internal investigation into the group is now under way and some private messaging apps are being blocked from the society's wifi network.

When asked for an update on its investigation, a Law Society spokesperson said: "We have nothing to add to our previous statement."

On Thursday, the society said that it had "taken immediate action to thoroughly investigate the circumstances and seek to establish all the facts," adding that it takes these allegations "extremely seriously".

Irish Independent

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