Serious concerns about architects are rare. On the limited occasions they do occur, as the UK regulator we are here to ensure standards, and therefore trust, in the profession is maintained. We hope the information published about conduct and competence decisions provides useful learning points for others.
A hearing of ARB’s Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) concluded on 12 November 2020 with a penalty order of £2,500 imposed on Mr Gerald William Adair Binmore of The Studio, Devon (registration number 049405D) following a finding of unacceptable professional conduct (UPC).
In January 2017, Mr Binmore was asked by his client to provide an ‘architects certificate’ and appropriate plan stating when works were completed on a number of buildings at the client’s property. Mr Binmore prepared and signed six Practical Completion Certificates that certified works as practically complete on a number of dates in 2014 and 2015. However, an application made by the client to the Local Authority for a Certificate of Lawfulness brought the accuracy of the dates on the certificates into question.
Following an investigation by the Local Authority, the Head of Planning submitted a complaint to ARB in June 2019 on the basis that the date on the Practical Completion Certificate, submitted as part of the client’s application, was wrong. It was subsequently alleged by ARB that Mr Binmore dishonestly backdated the issue dates on the certificates.
Mr Binmore did not attend the hearing except to address the PCC on sanction. In his submissions, Mr Binmore stated that he had been open and transparent with the Local Authority and ARB that his actions were wrong, and that he had immediately taken steps to put matters right by advising the client to withdraw the planning application. It was never his intention to mislead anyone, and he relied on the information given to him by his client.
The PCC found all of the allegations proved and considered that Mr Binmore’s actions in signing the certificate were dishonest and lacked integrity. These were serious failings which adversely impacted his reputation and that of the profession. It found this amounted to UPC.
In considering its sanction, the PCC acknowledged that Mr Binmore took steps to mitigate the effects of his isolated error, engaged in the investigation process and had expressed genuine regret and remorse for his conduct. However, the PCC highlighted the impact his actions had on the integrity of professional certificates and that they led to the Local Authority undertaking an investigation. In the light of the mitigating factors and Mr Binmore’s transparency about what had happened it concluded that a penalty order at the maximum permitted amount of £2,500 would be the appropriate sanction.
A copy of the decision can be found here.
Notes for Editors
• The Architects Registration Board (ARB) is the statutory body established by Parliament under the Architects Act 1997 to regulate the UK architects’ profession in the public interest.
Among other duties, the Act requires ARB to:
– Maintain the Architects Register
– Prescribe the UK qualifications needed to become an architect in the UK
– Issue a code laying down the standards of professional conduct and practice expected of architects
– Investigate allegations of unacceptable professional conduct or serious professional incompetence
– Investigate and where appropriate prosecute unregistered individuals who unlawfully call themselves an architect
– Act as the UK’s Competent Authority for architects
• ARB has a Board of 11 members all appointed by the Privy Council. This includes one lay, non-executive Chair and ten non-executive Board members made up of five members of the public and five architects.
• The PCC is established under Schedule 1, Part II of the Architects Act and is required to consider any report referred to it. The PCC determines whether an architect is guilty of unacceptable professional conduct or serious professional incompetence.
Where a guilty finding is made, the PCC will consider whether to make a disciplinary order, which means:
– a reprimand
– a penalty order
– a suspension order (to a maximum of 2 years); or
– an erasure order
• Money raised by fines imposed by the Professional Conduct Committee is paid to HM Treasury.
• ARB has an Information Pack detailing its key messaging intended for use by the press and other stakeholders.
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