Many years ago, someone who definitely isn’t me had the bright idea to eat half a pot cookie on her way to the airport before a red-eye flight from San Francisco to New York. After all, late-night flights are rarely delayed, right? What’s the worst that could happen? Well, in her case the worst that happened was her flight was delayed and she was cruising on a spaceship far, far beyond the atmosphere by the time her plane boarded, but thankfully she was able to find her legs, hobble into her seat, and pass out for the entirety of the flight. But what’s the worst that can really happen to someone in a state of inebriation on a flight? How about getting groped and then smacked with a book by the drunken PwC auditor two seats down from you?
That’s exactly what happened in May 2018 when James Phipps, on a flight from Dulles to Heathrow, got a bit too handsy with the hottie in his aisle.
While the aircraft was in flight, the woman was awoken by Phipps touching her. The tribunal was told that a US court had heard how he ‘had 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 towards him to kiss her, the court was told, before she pushed him away and yelled ‘No! Get the f*** off of me!’
Phipps then mocked the woman, before grabbing the hardback book and throwing it at her, hitting her in the face, the court heard.
The victim reported the incident to a flight attendant and she was moved to another seat.
He wasn’t arrested until July 2019, and the following month claimed that he didn’t remember any of the above when he pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on Aug. 2, 2019. The court gave him 10 days in jail and 10 days of house arrest, after which he moved back to the U.K. to get his life back on track.
Obviously he lost his job at PwC, and the firm reported the incident to the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) with which Phipps is registered. With jail time behind him, the ICAEW recently had to decide if this guy made everyone else look so bad that he should be barred from practicing accounting ever again. Turns out, assaulting strangers on a plane isn’t totally life-ruining after all:
‘The starting point for a criminal conviction resulting in a term of imprisonment is recommended to be exclusion,’ the panel chaired by Ros Wright QC, said.
‘A conviction of this nature inevitably reflected badly on the reputation of the profession and of its members and the public had the right to be protected against behaviour 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’, a reprimand would be suitable punishment.
‘The Committee considered that there were a number of mitigating factors to be taken into account. (He) was of good character and was currently employed in a responsible position.
Phipps’ victim says she had to seek therapy and is to this day terrified of flying.
You will recall that this isn’t the first time a drunken PwCer has gotten in trouble for being too handsy. No wonder they are keeping a close eye on drinking at the office (or would be had that pesky Rona not kept everyone inside this year).