A laid-off PwC accountant jailed for drunk fumbling at the breasts of a sleeping woman on a British Airways flight before attacking her with a book when she refused, was allowed to continue working today.
James Phipps was on a transatlantic flight when he rubbed the breasts of a passenger two seats away from him and tried to kiss her, a disciplinary committee hearing heard.
As the woman pushed him away, the PwC team leader took the book she was reading and tossed it to her, slapping her face.
James Phipps was on a BA transatlantic flight when he rubbed the breasts of a passenger two seats away from him and tried to kiss her, a Disciplinary Committee hearing heard (file picture).
The female victim of Phipps had to seek therapy after the attack and is still afraid of flying due to the traumatic episode, the tribunal was told.
He was arrested and jailed for assault in America and lost his job at PwC, full name PriceWaterhouseCoopers.
But he escaped after the Institute of Accountants accepted his argument that this was an "isolated incident".
The hearing was told that the incident occurred when Phipps, who at the time was working for PwC in Virginia, boarded a flight from Washington Dulles International Airport to London Heathrow Airport on May 11, 2018.
He told the tribunal that on the day of the incident, he "drank a lot both before and on the flight".
The jury heard that he was sitting in an aisle seat and a lady was sitting two seats away from him in the next aisle seat. The two middle seats were empty.
While the plane was in flight, the woman was woken up by Phipps, who touched her. The tribunal was told that a US court heard him "have his arms all over her torso".
He "rubbed her chest and breasts," leaned over to her, grabbed the back of her neck and pulled her close to kiss her, the court was told before she pushed him away and "No! Take that shit off me!" ;
Phipps then mocked the woman before grabbing the bound book and tossing it at her and slapping her face, the court heard.
The victim reported the incident to a flight attendant and she was moved to another seat.
Phipps of the Isle of Wight was arrested on July 1, 2019 and charged with assault.
Although he claimed he had no recollection of that event, he pleaded guilty to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on August 2, 2019.
Prosecutors said the female victim had "started seeing a therapist about the incident" and "continues to live with fear of flying over the attack".
On August 30, 2019, he was sentenced to 10 days in a detention center in the United States. A period of 10 days of house arrest followed.
After his conviction, he returned to the UK on September 21, 2019 to "rebuild his life".
His former employer PwC, who fired him, reported his conviction to the ICAEW.
Phipps told the panel that he was "humble and remorseful" about what he had done and that his actions were "completely atypical".
He was arrested and jailed for assault in America and lost his job at PwC, full name PriceWaterhouseCoopers. File image
The hearing was told that Loughborough University graduate Phipps had been sober since shortly after the incident.
The tribunal ruled that an exception could be made in this case and chose not to exclude Phipps, who now works as an accountant for the Wiggle bicycle company in Portsmouth.
Instead, the Tribunal gave him a "severe reprimand" and sentenced him to pay a cost of £ 5,060.
"The starting point for a criminal conviction leading to a prison term is expulsion," said the panel, chaired by Ros Wright QC.
"Such a condemnation was inevitably badly reflected in the reputation of the profession and its members, and the public had the right to be protected from conduct of the kind alleged in this case."
However, it concluded that as an accountant of "good character" who had assured them that this was "an isolated incident," reprimand would be an appropriate punishment.
The Committee considered that a number of mitigating factors should be taken into account. (He) had a good character and was currently employed in a responsible position.
He had fully participated in the institute's investigations. He assured the committee that … the attack was atypical and an isolated incident. & # 39;
According to his LinkedIn profile, Phipps worked for PwC for six years, including two years in the US to “conduct private audits”.
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