Guidance on drafting Professional Conduct Committee decisions
The Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) has a professional and legal duty to provide adequate reasons for the decisions it reaches, so that its findings can be readily understood. This is to provide the architect concerned the right to a fair trial and to enable them to appeal the decision should they so wish.
Furthermore, the Architects Registration Board (ARB) has a responsibility to act in an open and transparent way, and decisions of the PCC may provide a salutary message to the profession.
Whatever finding the PCC reaches, it should be recorded in a manner that allows any interested party to understand what was decided, and why. It should be written in a way that is easily understandable as to the issues being considered, findings of fact reached, and conclusions arrived at without reference to any other materials.
Protocol for drafting decisions
The drafting of PCC decisions is primarily the responsibility of the Chair; however it is important that all members of the Committee are aware of the finalised wording of the decision and that there is consensus as to its content.
For expedience Chairs may choose to draft some of the non-contentious background to the case in advance of the hearing. If a draft is prepared, the Chair should provide a copy to the other members of the Committee in advance of the proceedings.
While it is preferable for a fully reasoned decision to be provided on the day of the hearing, on occasion it will not be practical to do so. Where the written decision is deferred, it should be finalised and provided to the Secretariat within 10 days of the hearing.
A deferred decision must be agreed by all three PCC members. Any amendments to the distributed draft should be submitted in Word, using track changes. Where it is not possible to reach agreement via correspondence, the Chair should request that the Secretariat arrange a meeting or conference call between the PCC members.
The Secretariat must not be copied in on any draft of the decision or correspondence as to its content. Only when the decision is finalised in a format to be distributed to the parties should it be provided to ARB.
The decision content
The decision of the PCC should include:
- Details of the parties involved in the case
- A background to the case to allow a previously uninformed reader to understand the issues being considered
- The specific allegations being made against the architect
- Any preliminary matters dealt with, including any legal advice that was received from the Chair of the panel
- Findings of fact in relation to those matters that were disputed
- Conclusions reached on any submissions made
- Whether or not the proven facts amount to unacceptable professional conduct and/or serious professional incompetence
- Any findings reached based on evidence given by way of mitigation or aggravation
- The penalty imposed, giving due reference to the Indicative Sanctions Guidance
While the nature of every case will require certain uniqueness in drafting style, Chairs of the PCC should pay regard to each other’s decisions so as to encourage consistency in decision writing.
All decisions should, however, be written in a clear and unambiguous style avoiding jargon, overly technical language, or unexplained acronyms. They should be formatted into numbered paragraphs containing short and legible sentences.