Disciplinary proceedings 10 January 2006



 

AARUK invites inquirers and policy-makers to consider the disciplinary proceedings pursued by the ARB in 2005/6 against two entirely blameless architects who had decided not to complete the PII compliance statement which the Board claims to be entitled to “require” for the purposes of Standard 8.




1          In these two cases the basic issue was: Whether the single fact that an architect who has informed the Board of his decision not to complete the Board’s PII compliance statement can be treated as “unacceptable professional conduct” in the practice of architecture? Footnote


2          The architects (R—L— and J—L—) had not “ticked the box”, and had informed the ARB that they were under no duty to do this and had chosen not to. There was nothing else that the Board could allege about complying with Standard 8 or any other part of the Code, and there was no third party complaint of any kind. It is self-evident that “ticking the box” is not a matter of “professional conduct” in the practice of architecture, nor can an architect’s choice not to “tick the box” be “unacceptable” professional conduct, irksome though it may be felt by the Board. Once that had become clear to the members of the Committee, they could not allow either of these two cases to proceed, and a decision to quash the proceedings would be inevitable.


3          The members of the Committee who had to identify this basic issue by penetrating the thickets of confusion which the ARB had been cultivating were a solicitor appointed by the President of the Law Society, another solicitor whose experience included sitting on local authority ethical conduct cases under the Local Government Act 2000, and an architect who had been a member of the RIBA Council and its Disciplinary Committee.


4          In view of the way in which the Board had been handling the matter, the architects decided to set out their objections to the case being put against them in a lengthy document (in two letters) for a preliminary hearing. This was a “Notice of Application to Quash the Proceedings”. They claimed that the proceedings were without foundation in law or fact, and were against the Board’s own policy as had been described by the Board Chairman in an open letter (to the RIBA President) some months after the proceedings against them had been started by the Registrar and Investigation Committee.


5          They had proposed that the Board should withdraw the charges. The Board had declined; but at a Preliminary hearing on 5th October 2005, as a result of their objection to one of the members of the hearing Committee (a former Board member) the hearing had to be postponed for her to be replaced by another Committee member who had never been a Board member. The date for the further preliminary hearing by the reconstituted Committee was 10 January 2006.

 

6          Their “Application to Quash” (Nov/Dec 2005) contains much useful information of general interest about the ARB. Its narrative accounts for something of the difficulties that have arisen from the skewing of the registration body’s activities under the new regime, from the time when the Board (ARB) took over from the Council (ARCUK) in 1997, and it points to flaws in the legal advice which the ARB has been claiming to rely on. The architects have made it available to inquirers through this website. It can make uncomfortable reading for anyone who prefers to leave injustices lying in expedient obscurity.


The following is based on an extract from some Explanatory remarks by one who was present at the hearing of the PRELIMINARY APPLICATION FOR THE PROCEEDINGS TO BE QUASHED on 10th January, and who had also been present at the preliminary hearing on 5th October 2005 when one of four earlier preliminary applications had been heard.


Two Essential facts:


In making their Application to Quash the two Architects were claiming the Professional Conduct Committee’s protection in respect of what the Architects considered to be cause for complaint against the Board.


They considered that it was essential that the Professional Conduct Committee was fully conscious of two facts; and that once these had been understood, little would need to be added to realise that the proceedings should never have got so far, and should be stopped before going further.


The first of these two facts was that there was no third party complaint of any kind. The proceedings were solely the product of the Board’s internal administrative arrangements, which had been operated by the Registrar and certain members of the Board, acting as the Board’s Investigation Committee.


The second fact is evident on reading the Architects Act 1997 itself. It is this: the Act assigns to the Board certain duties towards architects, but the Act puts on architects no duties to the Board. It follows that any rules made by the Board under the Act must be consistent with that fact.


Any doubt about that can be demonstrated by going through the Act section by section, but uncluttered by any pre-conceptions induced by any explanatory material originating from the Board itself, such as Annual Reports or other publication.


        In Summary:

 

          1.         Not even registered persons owe to the Board any obligation concerning professional conduct; and in particular, registered persons owe no duty to the Board in respect of anything in the Code issued by the Board under section 13 of the Architects Act 1997. To claim otherwise would be a result of conceptual confusion or a misreading of the Act.

 

          2.         Apart from officers, employees and agents of the Board, the Act creates no duties or obligations towards the Board which fall on any one else at all.

 

          3.         Section 3(4) states: “The Board shall publish the current version of the Register annually...” other provisions of Part II of the Act prescribe how the Register shall be kept up to date, and who shall be entitled to be registered; other provisions of Parts II and III prescribe for the Board the circumstances, events or conditions when a person’s name shall be removed from the Register; and other provisions prescribe for the Board certain ancillary, or derivative and secondary, duties in connection with the Board’s primary responsibility for the maintenance and regular publication of the Register of Architects.

 

          4.          Nothing in the Act itself creates any obligation which an architect owes to the Board.

 

          5.         It is self-evident that the Board owes a duty of care to registered persons first, to see that they are duly registered, and secondly, not to subject them to any demands or threats connected with registration which are not expressly within the Act.


The two architects issued a brief statement explaining their position:

 

Like other architects when the annual registration fee for 2004/5 was due, we once again received the ARB’s bogus claim to be entitled to require us to complete the PII compliance form. We exercised the same right as everyone has when approached by a pollster or marketing agent in the street or by post: we each decided not to.

 

The ARB thereupon initiated disciplinary proceedings against us. It has been clear all along that there has been no other reason than our simple refusal, which we made in the knowledge that like everyone else we are as free to choose not to answer the ARB’s inquiry as we are a pollster’s. The fact that the ARB has a statutory duty to publish the annual Register of Architects with our names and practice addresses in it makes no difference.

 

The proceedings have defied natural justice, common sense and the Architects Act. It has been obvious for months that the ARB should never have started these proceedings against us, and should never have forced us to spend so much of our resources defending our professional position.

 

To counter the ARB’s lumbering intransigence, we set out reasoned objections in a lengthy document which we prepared for the hearing by ARB’s PCC on 10 January 2006. That reveals the true character of the method of operation which the ARB has used against us, compared with what the Chairman (Humphrey Lloyd) was claiming in his open letter of June 2005 to Jack Pringle PRIBA (then president-elect). It shows the flaws in the legal advice that the ARB claims to rely on.

 

We know that others agree with us that the proceedings have been unacceptable and inexcusable. We are willing to receive the apology which is due to us from the ARB. But we reserve the right to give evidence to an independent and detailed inquiry into the way in which the ARB contrives to misspend the registration fees in this way.

 

The formal document setting out our objections included the following summary:

 

“‘(1)    The proceedings should be quashed in that the proceedings are, and are known to be:

 

                        a.         without any, or any sufficient, foundation in law or fact;

 

                        b.         vitiated by the Board and its Investigation Committee and Professional Conduct Committee having a common interest in upholding the disputed validity of the present Standard 8.

 

             “‘(2)    Resistance to the Board’s request for information in the name of “monitoring” or otherwise cannot be attributed to unacceptable professional conduct on our part.

 

             “‘(3)    The case against each of us depends upon an unsustainable proposition (as set out in para.5 of the full document).

 

             “‘(4)    The ARB policy in connection with Standard 8 cases has been skewed from the outset by the propensity to disregard the Act, which has been shown by ARB Annual Reports (mentioned in para.27 of the full document).

 

             “‘(5)    The doubtful validity of the present proceedings was acknowledged more than a year before the first preliminary hearing in the present proceedings (on 5 October 2005) in the Report from the Board Chairman (H. Lloyd) and the Registrar (R. Vaughan) On “Promoting Greater Clarity and Flexibility for the Framework of Architectural Regulation”, received by the Board in September 2004 (mentioned in paragraph 8 of the full document).

 

              “‘(6)    The certainty or probability that we were entitled to resist the Board’s request for information, as we have done, has not been denied by an authoritative ruling known to the law’”.

 

                        R—L—                                                         J— L—

                        M.A. (Cantab.), Dip. Arch, RIBA,                 Dip. Arch., Architect, RIBA,

                        Cambs.                                                          Hants.


The full text of our objections is available through www.aaruk.info, the website “About Architects Registration in the UK”.


TEXT OF LETTERS SETTING OUT REASONED OBJECTIONS TO DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDINGS, for the hearing by ARB’s PCC on 10 January 2006.


Instead of making lengthy excerpts, AARUK reproduces the whole text of the letters but with subdued emphasis an the parts of lesser interest outside the actual proceedings.


Notice of Application to Quash, being an elision of a notice dated 28 November 2005 and its continuation on 19 December 2005.

Decision of the PCC, 11 January 2006, with links to relevant parts of the Notice.

 

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