Mr Peter Kenneth Robertson
THE ARCHITECTS REGISTRATION BOARD PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT COMMITTEE
In the matter of
PETER KENNETH ROBERTSON (045881C)
Held as a video conference
15-17 September 2021
Sean Hammond (Chair)
Roger Wilson (PCC Architect Member)
Jules Griffiths (PCC Lay Member)
In this case, the ARB is represented by Ms Catriona Watt of Anderson Strathern LLP.
Mr Robertson has attended this hearing and is legally represented by Ms Sian Mirchandani QC of 4 New Square and instructed by Beale & Co.
The Professional Conduct Committee (“PCC”) found Mr Robertson guilty of serious professional incompetence (“SPI”) in that he:
a) failed to identify if a damp roof and time decay survey had been carried out in respect of the property and, in absence of such a survey, failed to instruct one prior to further work continuing in terms of his appointment;
b) failed to carry out adequate inspections before signing a Professional Consultant’s Certificate dated 20 October 2015.
and that by doing so, he acted in breach of Standards 2.1 and 6.1 of the Architects Code: Standards of Conduct and Practice 2010 (“the Code”).
The sanction imposed is a penalty order for the sum of £2,500.
- Mr Robertson (“the Respondent”) admits the facts of the allegation and that because of these admissions he is guilty of SPI.
- This case arises out of a complaint to the ARB made by JC (“the Complainant”) against the Respondent, a registered architect of Robertson Design Practice, Middlepenny Road, Langbank, PA14 6XB.
- In November 2015, the Complainant purchased a renovated farmhouse (“the Property”) from a property developer.
- The Property is an original farmhouse building with a new build two storey extension. It forms part of a steadings development, that was granted planning permission in 2009 to convert the existing farmhouse and to build five further dwelling houses.
- During 2009, the developer began the work on the project. It is not known why the original Architects did not continue with the development, but on 12 February 2010, the Respondent was appointed to carry out inspections during the course of the works with a Professional Consultant’s Certificate to be issued in respect of the completion of each unit. The terms of the Respondent’s appointment are set out in the Respondent’s letter to the developer dated 10 February 2010.
- An initial meeting was held on 15 February 2010 between the Respondent and the structural engineers for the project. Thereafter, the Respondent undertook inspections between 21 March 2010 and 20 October 2015, the date on which the Respondent signed the Professional Consultant’s Certificate in respect of the Property. Between September 2010 and April 2015, the Respondent’s hand-written site visit notes do not refer to inspections involving the Property, although they do refer to inspections at the other dwellings which were being constructed. This coincides with the period of time when work was not directly being undertaken on the Property.
- The work done on the original farmhouse part of the Property commenced in 2009 before the Respondent was appointed. It included stripping back original lath and plaster walls and ceilings to bare walls and bare joists, partial replacement of floor joists and new floorboards, partial replacement of existing timber dooks, new stonework and repointing, new windows, stripping slate roof and partial repairs to existing timber and a new slate roof.
- The construction of the two-storey extension to the Property and the construction of the double garage were complete new builds.
- The Professional Consultant’s Certificate, signed and dated by the Respondent on 20 October 2015, stated:
“I certify that:
1. I have visited the site at appropriate periods from the commencement of construction to the current stage to check generally: a) progress, and b) conformity with drawings, approved under the building regulations, and c) conformity with drawings/instructions properly issued under the building contract.
2. At the stage of my last inspection of 20.10.15, the property had reached the stage of completion.”
- The Complainant and her husband were both due to move to Scotland for work purposes in 2015. They saw the Property advertised online in early 2015 and purchased it in November 2015.
- The Complainant states that she relied on the Respondent’s Professional Consultant’s Certificate dated 20 October 2015 both for her mortgage funds to be released and for reassurance that the Property had been duly inspected.
- Shortly after the Complainant and her husband moved into the Property, there was a storm and the Complainant found that windows in the property and in the sunroom extension had leaked. They also began to notice other defects including pitching in the flooring, warping of window ledges and fungal bodies growing between floorboards.
- The Complainant says that she sought help from the Respondent, who, she advises referred her to the developer Mr C, who, in turn, said the issues were not his responsibility.
- Therefore, in the Spring of 2016, the Complainant instructed a timber preservation specialist, CP. They noted that the damage and defects were consistent with abnormal levels of dampness and considered there may be high relative humidity at sub-floor level. They proposed lifting the floorboards to allow for inspection and to prepare a report on what remedial work was required.
- Following their “opening up works” at the Property, C P provided a report dated 20 October 2016.
- The report sets out the inspections in each room of the original farmhouse part of the Property and sets out the extensive dry rot in every room. The report identifies the extent of the remedial works which will be required and which involves the stripping out of fixtures and fittings and stripping back of walls, floors and ceilings to repair and replace all timbers affected by the dry rot. The report also identified additional issues, including defective lead work throughout. It also recommended the instruction of full height scaffolding, the need for rafter repairs, masonry repairs, lintel, joist and floor repairs and all attendant electrical, plumbing and decorative work. The report noted some dry rot at tertiary level and that new fixtures had been attached to areas affected by dry rot, indicating that the issue was identifiable.
- The Complainant proceeded to instruct the timber preservation specialist to undertake some remedial work at the Property in light of the defects that had been identified. The Complainant states this involved substantial stripping out work. The Complainant describes this as “the house was being taken apart around us. We got to the point where we had to stop that work because it became unbearable to live with. It had become clear by this point how much was wrong with the property, so we sought legal advice.”
- The Complainant commenced a legal action against the Respondent in the Court of Session. As part of this legal action, the Complainant, through her solicitors instructed further expert reports. This included two expert reports by from Mr RC, a Chartered Architect. Those reports included details of multiple defects and included photographs of the external and internal views of the Property with apparent defects shown.
- C P produced a report dated 25 January 2017 in which they set out what caused the rot and that it was present at the time work was being done on the original farmhouse building of the Property. It identifies the number of places throughout the Property where this would, in their opinion, have been identifiable.
- The Complainant and the Respondent reached a settlement in relation to the legal action in 2019. The extensive remedial work then began. The Complainant describes this as “It was heart-breaking to see it being taken apart around us. We couldn’t have friends round, it stank of damp. It was depressing and extremely stressful.”
- The Complainant and her husband moved out of the Property in November 2019 to allow for all of the stripping out and other work to be carried out. They have been living in a static caravan on the site since then.
- The Complainant has commenced a second legal action against the Respondent in relation to issues that have arisen in relation to the construction of the two-storey extension to the Property.
- In her witness statement dated 4 May 2021, the Complainant states that she and her husband have already spent approximately £150,000 on remedial building works. She states that the roofing works will cost in the region of £50,000 and that the rendering will be a further £30,000.
- In her witness statement, the Complainant also describes how this situation has caused her and her husband significant inconvenience and stress.
- The ARB instructed an Inquirer, Mr Robert Johnston, Chartered Architect (“the Inquirer”) to visit the Property, conduct a visual inspection and provide a report.
- The Inquirer attended the Property on 20 August 2020 with Mr RC of C P and the Complainant in attendance. The Inquirer produced a report dated 29 September 2020.
Findings of Fact
- The Committee noted that in his witness statement dated 24 August 2021, the Respondent stated:
“29. It is accepted that my handwritten notes of my inspections are brief and, in the circumstances, it is accepted that they do not confirm adequate inspections were carried out.30. It is also acknowledged that my appointment did not exclude opening up of already constructed areas.31. My duties and responsibilities in signing the Certificate, as set out at paragraph 3.3.1 of the Inquirer’s report [Appendix B, P9], were as follows: “to ensure by periodic inspection that the work had been completed to a satisfactory standard and in general compliance with the drawings approved under the building regulations. It was his responsibility to ensure that the nature and frequency of his inspections was sufficient. He was also responsible for providing comfort to any purchaser and lender that work had been carried out to a satisfactory standard and in general compliance with the drawings approved under the building regulations. He would be aware that responsibility remained current from six years from the date of the certificate to any subsequent purchaser and lender.”32. Further, in signing the Certificate, I confirmed that I had visited the Property and checked conformity of the construction with the building warrant and drawings and confirmed that the Property had been constructed to a satisfactory standard and in conformity with the drawings.33. The snagging list, which I appended to the Certificate, but which was not provided to the Complainant, did identify issues that I was aware of at the time I signed the Certificate. However, it is accepted that I did not identify a number of the issues stated in the snagging list prepared by the Complainant [Appendix D, P396-397], the reports of Mr C [Appendix D, P213-267, Section 4] and the Inquirer’s report, and this demonstrates that I did not carry out my inspections adequately.
34. I admit that, as the Inquirer concluded…I knew or should have known that risks relating to dry rot were present on this particular project, and that I should have taken steps to determine what had been done about identifying whether those risks had materialised.35. Even though my appointment did not specifically state instruction of reports, I had a responsibility nonetheless to enquire as to whether or not the necessary condition reports of the original property had been obtained, and, depending on the response, to instruct or require instruction of such condition reports to determine the condition of the original farmhouse that would be incorporated into the Property. I agree that my appointment did not expressly exclude such action.
36. The Inquirer’s report [Appendix B] was based on the Inquirer’s visit to the Property on 20 August 2020 alongside C P and the Complainant. I agree, as the Inquirer notes at paragraph 2.16 of his report, that identifying rot is a specialist area [Appendix B, P6-7].
37. I accept that architects generally should be aware of the risks of refurbishment of older properties, such as a farmhouse, which have not had recent maintenance and may have been tenanted or empty. The usual practice of an architect in relation to such projects is set out at paragraph 22.214.171.124 of Mr C’s Report of July 2019 [Appendix D, P129] (as agreed with by the Inquirer)…
38. I accept that the RIBA job book highlights the importance of surveys of existing buildings and written reports, including on dry rot. I was aware of the possibility of timber decay in older properties such as the Property.
39. As a consequence of my inspections, I accept that I was aware of the general condition of the Property but I was not aware of whether such a survey had been carried out. I accept that I should have inquired of Mr C or the previous architect if a survey by a rot specialist had been carried out and that absent such a survey having been done, I should have instructed one, or required such a survey to be instructed, before continuing in the terms of my appointment.
40. I accept that the Property has required extensive remedial works which have come at a financial and personal cost to the Complainant. I am distressed and extremely remorseful that the Complainant has suffered in such a manner.”
44. In light of the Admitted Facts and Circumstances I accept that:
a. I failed to carry out adequate inspections before signing a professional consultant’s certificate; and,
b. I failed to identify if a damp proof and timber decay survey had been carried out and, in the absence of such a survey, failed to instruct one prior to further work continuing in terms of my appointment.
c. The above Admitted Facts and Circumstances, provide grounds for a finding of serious professional incompetence in relation to the First Particular and the Second Particular.
45. Accordingly, I accept that I am in breach of Standard 2 regarding professional competence, and in breach of Standard 6, regarding the required standard of skill.”
- In light of these comprehensive admissions, which were confirmed by the Respondent at the beginning of this hearing, the Committee found the facts of the allegation, as particularised in parts 1(a) and 1(b), proved.
Serious Professional Incompetence
- Having found the facts of the allegation proved, the Committee went on to consider whether the Respondent is guilty of SPI.
- SPI is a serious failure to meet the required standard of skill expected of a member of the profession undertaking a similar kind of job at the same time. It relates to the quality and application of the professional skills Architects need to do their job. It can relate to something that an Architect has or has not done, but an unexpected or unsatisfactory outcome is not in itself proof that an Architect has been seriously incompetent.
- The ARB’s own guidance recognises that because the facts and circumstances of each case are different, it is not possible to identify the exact point where incompetence becomes serious incompetence. The Committee recognises that each case will turn on its own facts. However, the following features make it more likely to be viewed as serious:
- When the consequences are, or could have been, particularly serious;
- Where the architect’s standard of competence falls significantly below thatexpected;
- Where a number of failings, while not serious individually, togetherdemonstrate a pattern of incompetence; and
- Where a pattern of incompetence suggests an architect may not actcompetently in the future.
- In reaching its decision, the Committee has carefully considered all the evidence contained in the ARB bundle and the Respondent’s bundle, the submissions made by Ms Watt on behalf of the ARB and by Ms Mirchandani QC on behalf of the Respondent. The Committee also accepted the legal advice from the Legally Qualified Chair and had regard to the guidance published by the ARB.
- The Committee noted that the Architects Code: Standards of Professional Conduct and Practice 2010 (“the Code”) was in force at the time of the matters giving rise to this allegation.
- The Committee recognised that not every shortcoming on the part of an Architect, nor failure to comply with the provisions of the Code, will necessarily result in a finding of SPI.
- The Committee reminded itself that a finding of SPI is a matter for its own independent judgment and that there is no burden or standard of proof. The Committee will take into consideration the Respondent’s admission that he is guilty of SPI, however, this admission is not determinative of the issue.
- The Committee had regard to the case of Spencer v General Osteopathic Council  EWHC 3147 (Admin) and noted that “mere negligence does not constitute misconduct” and that “a single negligent act or omission is less likely to cross the threshold of misconduct than multiple acts or omissions”. The Queen on the Application of Dr Malcolm Noel Calhaem v General Medical Council  EWHC 2606 (Admin). The Committee also recognises that any failing must be serious. Vranicki v Architects Registration Board  EWHC 506 Admin.
- The Committee noted that the Respondent admits that he breached Standards 2 and 6 of the Code, namely:Standard 2
Competence2.1 You are expected to be competent to carry out the professional work you undertake to do, and if you engage others to do that work you should ensure that they are competent and adequately supervised.Standard 6
You should carry out your professional work faithfully and conscientiously and with due regard to relevant technical and professional standards
6.1 You are expected to carry out your work promptly and with skill and care and in accordance with the terms of your engagement.
- The Committee was satisfied that the developer and the Complainant were entitled to rely on the Respondent’s technical knowledge and experience and have confidence that the Respondent would inspect as required, arrange or recommend any specialist reports that were needed to ensure that the property was fit for purpose and properly constructed. In the circumstances of this case, the Committee was satisfied that the Respondent’s failure to (a) identify if a damp proof and timber decay survey had been carried out in respect of the Property, and in the absence of such a survey, his failure to instruct one prior to further work continuing; and (b) his failure to carry out adequate inspections before signing a Professional Consultant’s Certificate each amount to a breach of Standards 2.1 and 6.1 of the Code. In the Committee’s view, these failings were extensive and occurred over a significant period of time.
- In her submissions to the Committee, Ms Mirchandani drew the Committee’s attention to the opinion and conclusions reached by Mr W, the Architect expert witness instructed on behalf of the Respondent. The Committee has had careful regard to these matters.
- However, the Respondent has not challenged the findings of the Inquirer as set out in his report dated 29 September 2020.
- The Committee accepted the expert evidence provided by the Inquirer. The Committee noted, in particular, the following parts of the Inquirer’s report:“2.13 I visited the property on the afternoon of 26 August 2020…2.14 With the exception of a shower room on the upper floor of the extension (retained for the use of the Complainant, living in an adjacent caravan) the entire internal finishes – floor, walls and ceilings – have been stripped out. Work to eradicate dry rot was in progress but according to Mr C progress was hampered by the difficulty in removing moisture from the structure, particularly the external walls of the house and the extension. Externally ground levels have been reduced around the perimeter of the structure to relieve hydrostatic pressure at the base of the walls and to assist drying out.(For any dry rot eradication treatment to be effective the source or sources of moisture must be removed, otherwise re-infestation can occur.)…
2.16 COMMENTARY – EXISTING BUILDINGS AND TIMBER DECAY: OBSERVATIONS ON THE BEHAVIOUR OF DRY ROT…In this connection, I would agree with the opinion of Mr C in his report of July 2019, at paragraph 126.96.36.199:
‘Where an architect is appointed to provide inspection services to old buildings (such as the former farmhouse) it is my opinion that it would be normal practice for that architect to pay particular attention to possible defects that might ordinarily be expected to be found in an old building. Such defects might include:
i) The effect of penetrating dampness through floors, walls, windows and roof.
ii) Timber decay at roof level (rafter ends and wall plates), timber decay at external walls (safe lintols, joists, timber framing to lath and plaster including timber dooks and timber decay at ground floor joists and flooring).
and at 188.8.131.52:
‘In my opinion, it would be normal and usual practice for an architect to inspect the above and to satisfy himself/herself that appropriate remedial measures had been taken to remedy the above defects.’2.17 The R.I.B.A. Job Book… highlights the importance of surveys of existing buildings, including written reports which include information which cannot be shown graphically, such as:• Structural and other defects and their causes
• Dry rot, damp penetration, condensation….
3.2.1 The Architect should have made inquiry of the developer and of the architects who prepared the Building Warrant application if a survey or surveys had been carried out by a suitably qualified rot treatment specialist to establish:
1) that the existing property had a functioning, complete damp proof course (DPC);
2) whether there was any evidence of timber decay – wet rot, dry rot, woodworm, etc. – in existing timbers.
If such a report existed it would typically have made recommendations about:
a) the installation of a suitable DPC;
b) the treatment of any fungal decay, including the injection or spraying of suitable chemicals not only on affected timbers but on sound timbers and masonry within the vicinity, to prevent possible re-infestation.
In the apparent absence of such survey, the Architect, in my opinion, should have insisted that the developer instruct such a survey to ensure that the existing structures were free of timber decay before further work proceeded.
3.3.1 The duty of the Architect in signing the PCC was to ensure by periodic inspection that the work had been completed to a satisfactory standard and in general compliance with the drawings approved under the building regulations. It was his responsibility to ensure that the nature and frequency of his inspections was sufficient. He was also responsible for providing comfort to any purchaser and lender that work had been carried out to a satisfactory standard and in general compliance with the drawings approved under the building regulations. He would be aware that responsibility remained current from six years from the date of the certificate to any subsequent purchaser and lender.
3.4.1 In my opinion the Architect should have carried out inspections at the following stages of construction:
Formation – foundations (these may be carried out by the structural engineer) – DPC – Structural floors/frame – Roof structure and covering – Doors windows – Internal framing – 1st Fix services – Sheeting out – Floor finishes – 2nd Fix Internal joinery/finishes –Completion
At each stage I would expect the Architect to note whether the work had been carried out to a satisfactory standard and whether there was anything which needed to be drawn to the attention of the contractor/developer.”
- The Committee also had regard to the Complainant’s evidence in relation to the consequences of the Respondent’s failures. The Committee accepted the Complainant’s account of the significant financial and emotional impact upon her and her family, which included serious and on-going inconvenience. The Committee had regard to the fact that the Complainant and her husband were forced to move into a static caravan in November 2019 and have remained there since. The Committee also took into account the inevitable stress of having to institute legal proceedings.
- Having regard to all of the above matters, the Committee concluded that in respect of this allegation, the Respondent failed to meet the required standard of skill expected of a member of the profession undertaking a similar kind of job at the same time.
- The Committee was satisfied the Respondent’s failures had continued over a period of time and the consequences, still ongoing, are particularly serious for the Complainant. In these circumstances, the Committee was satisfied that the Respondent’s lack of competence could properly be characterised as SPI.
Decision on Sanction
- Having found that the Respondent is guilty of SPI, the Committee considered what, if any, sanction to impose.
- The Committee heard submissions from Ms Watt on behalf of the ARB and from Ms Mirchandani QC on behalf of the Respondent. The Committee had regard to all of the documentation contained in the bundles provided by the ARB and the Respondent, and to its previous findings in relation to the facts and SPI.
- In reaching its decision, the Committee took into consideration the Sanctions Guidance (January 2020) published by the ARB, but exercised its own independent judgement.
- The Committee accepted the advice of the Legally Qualified Chair who referred the Committee to the principles derived from Raschid v General Medical Council  EWHC 886 (Admin), Fuglers & Ors v Solicitors Regulation Authority  EWHC 179 and Bolton v Law Society  1 WLR 512.
- The Legally Qualified Chair also reminded the Committee that it is a ‘public authority’ for the purposes of the Human Rights Act 1998 and therefore, it must seek to uphold and promote the principles of the European Convention on Human Rights. Accordingly, when deciding what sanction to impose, the Committee should have regard to the principle of proportionality, weighing the interests of the public with those of the Architect. The interference with the Architect’s right to practise whilst using the title ‘Architect’ must be no more than necessary to achieve the Committee’s purpose in imposing a sanction.
- The Committee reminded itself that the primary purpose of sanctions is to protect members of the public, to maintain the integrity of the profession, and to declare and uphold proper standards of conduct and competence. It has borne in mind that the purpose of imposing a sanction is not to be punitive although it may have a punitive effect. It has taken into account the Respondent’s interests and the need to act proportionately.
- The Committee noted that appearance before this Committee is in itself salutary and that the Act does not require the Committee to impose a sanction in every case where a guilty finding is reached, so the Committee may choose to impose no sanction. If it decides to impose a sanction, then the sanctions available to the Committee are:
- Penalty order (up to £2500 per charge, with a maximum of 2 charges);
- Suspension (for a maximum of two years); and
- In determining the seriousness of this matter, the Committee has identified the following aggravating factors:
- The SPI has had, and continues to have, a substantial impact on the Complainant and her husband;
- Although limited to a single project, the SPI involved a multiplicity of failures by the Respondent, and to that extent, amounted to a pattern of incompetence; and
- The SPI occurred over the five-year period that the Respondent was involved in the project.
- The Committee noted that the aggravating factors it has identified were also the factors that led the Committee to conclude that the Respondent’s lack of competence in this case amounted to SPI. There were no additional aggravating factors in this case.
- The Committee identified the following mitigating factors.
- The Respondent admitted the facts of the allegation and admitted that he was guilty of SPI;
- The Respondent has fully engaged with the ARB and the regulatory process;
- The Respondent has been a registered Architect for over 40 years. He has a previously unblemished career and has no previous regulatory findings recorded against him;
- The Respondent has expressed genuine remorse and apologised for his actions;
- The Respondent has demonstrated insight into his failings and has taken step toremediate his practice;
- The risk of repetition of the SPI is very low; and
- The positive client testimonials provided on behalf of the Respondent.
- The Committee gave careful consideration to the Respondent’s witness statement dated 24 August 2021. The Committee was of the view that, in addition to the admissions made by the Respondent (set out within paragraph 28 of this determination), the Respondent has demonstrated significant insight into his failings. In particular, the Committee noted the Respondent’s acceptance of the Inquirer’s report and the steps he has now taken to remediate the deficiencies in his practice. The Committee was satisfied that the effect of the civil court action and these proceedings before the ARB have been a salutary experience for the Respondent and that the risk of repetition of the SPI is very low. The Committee also noted that the Respondent has expressed genuine remorse for his failings and the consequences for the Complainant and her husband.
- The Committee was particularly impressed by the two client testimonials provided on behalf of the Respondent. The Committee noted long standing and technical roles of both referees, which meant the Committee felt able to rely on them as credible evidence of the Respondent’s practice over a number of years and up to the present day.
- The first testimonial was from Ms AM, who is employed as a Project Manager for a Housing Association charity operating throughout Scotland. It offers personal, financial and technical assistance to people facing the difficult task of repairing, improving or adapting a home which is no longer suitable to their needs due to illness, disability or old age.
- Ms AM states that the Respondent has been on the charity’s panel of specialist advisers for a period of 14 years. She describes how the Respondent has been retained as an Architect by the charity in numerous, complex projects including a recent project that concluded in September 2021.
- She lists a number of roles that he has undertaken, including the assessment of risks and on-site involvement. She reported that projects were timely and successful. The Committee noted that in respect of one project, Ms AM stated “(the Respondent’s) experience allowed him to assess the risks inherent with a particular project and advise on whether the project should go ahead, as originally planned or at all. We relied a lot on the advice (the Respondent) provided and trusted in him to be open and honest about what is practical and achievable in the circumstances. His knowledge provided a level of comfort to both us and our clients.”
- Ms AM concludes her testimonial by stating “The specialist nature of our work needs people like (the Respondent) who have integrity, excellent technical skills and the capability to deliver time and again for those in society who need the help to improve their day to day lives. It would be fair to say we became reliant on (the Respondent) and it will create a huge hole for us when he retires”.
- The second testimonial is from Mr JH, the director of a Crematoria provider. He describes knowing of the Respondent in the local community for many years and then in a professional capacity since 2016. He states that the Respondent was employed for the full scope of architectural services on complex projects and his role included carrying out on-site inspections and certifications. He cited many of the Respondent’s characteristics highlighted by Ms AM. He also described the Respondent’s professionalism and diligence.
- Taking everything into account, the Committee determined that the SPI in this case falls within the lower to middle range of seriousness.
- The Committee next considered whether the level of seriousness of this case was so low that it would be disproportionate to impose a sanction. However, the Committee noted that the Respondent has breached Standards 2.1 and 6.1 of the Code and that the SPI in this case has had and continues to have a substantial impact on the Complainant and her husband. In the Committee’s view, the SPI is too serious for it to impose no sanction. The Committee was satisfied a sanction is required to maintain confidence in the profession and to declare and uphold proper standards of conduct and competence.
- Having determined that it is necessary to impose a sanction, the Committee considered each available sanction in ascending order of severity.
- The Committee first considered whether to impose a reprimand. The Committee noted that a reprimand is the least severe sanction that can be applied. It may be used in relation to offences which fall at the lower end of the scale of seriousness, and where it would be appropriate to mark the conduct or competence of an Architect as being unacceptable, particularly in cases where the SPI has not seriously affected the client. Having regard to the facts of this case, the Committee concluded that a reprimand would not be sufficient to maintain confidence in the reputation of the profession and to declare and uphold proper standards of conduct and competence.
- The Committee therefore went on to consider the imposition of a penalty order. The Committee had regard to the list of factors identified in the Sanctions Guidance as to when this may be an appropriate sanction and noted that this sanction may be considered where the offence is too serious to warrant a reprimand.
- The Committee decided that in the particular circumstances of this case, a penalty order would be the appropriate level of sanction. In reaching this decision, the Committee took into account its previous finding that the risk of repetition of the SPI in this case was low and that therefore the main purpose of the sanction in this case was not to protect the public but to maintain public confidence in the Architects’ profession. The Committee was satisfied that given the extensive mitigating factors (set out at paragraphs 54-61 of this determination), a finding of SPI by this Committee and a penalty order would be the proportionate sanction in this case.
- The Committee noted that its powers are limited to fines of up to level 4 on the standard scale of fines for summary offences, currently set at £2,500. The Committee had regard to the submissions made by Ms Mirchandani QC that the Respondent was in a position financially to pay a penalty order if imposed by the Committee. In these circumstances, the Committee was satisfied that given the seriousness of this case, it would be appropriate and proportionate to impose a penalty order for the maximum amount permitted.
- In reaching this decision, the Committee gave very careful consideration to the imposition of a suspension order. Its decision was finely balanced. However, in light of the extensive mitigation available to the Respondent, including his full admissions, his engagement with the ARB and the regulatory process, his insight, his genuine remorse, his previous unblemished 42-year career, the steps he has taken to remediate his practice, and the compelling evidence contained in the client testimonials, the Committee was persuaded that it would be disproportionate to impose a suspension order in his case.
- The Committee therefore imposes a penalty order in the sum of £2,500. This must be paid within 28 days.
- That concludes this determination.