- This guidance* has been developed to assist ARB’s Investigations Panel (“the IP”) in deciding whether to issue a preliminary decision before reaching a decision on case to answer. It is also intended to assist the public and architects in understanding the IP’s procedure. This note should be read in conjunction with the Guidance Note ‘What is a ‘case to answer’?’
The Investigations Rules
- Under Rules 8 and 15 of the Investigations Rules 2022 (“the Rules”) the role of the IP is to decide whether allegations of unacceptable professional conduct and serious professional incompetence should be referred to the Professional Conduct Committee (“the PCC”). The IP will consider whether there is a case to answer – namely, whether the evidence provides a realistic prospect of a finding of unacceptable professional conduct and/or serious professional incompetence, and whether it is in the public interest for the case to proceed to the PCC.
- The option of issuing a preliminary view is provided for in Rule 10 of the Rules. Rule 10 states,
Before carrying out its consideration under rule 15, the Investigations Panel may, if it considers it appropriate:
a) invite written representations from the Registered Person;
b) invite written representations from the referrer, if any,
and in so doing may indicate whether or not it is minded to refer the matter to the Professional Conduct Committee.
Factors to be considered
- Having considered the evidence available in support of the allegation, the IP must decide whether to issue a preliminary or final decision.
- Without intending to be exhaustive, in the following circumstances a preliminary decision is likely to be appropriate:
- The case is factually or evidentially complex;
- The evidence or submissions presented do not fully address the issues in the case;
- One or both parties have submitted material evidence or representations which the other has not yet had an opportunity to consider;
- The IP has instructed an inquirer and/or sought legal advice during its deliberations;
- The IP has been made aware of previous disciplinary findings or previous advice issued to the architect on matters of professional conduct. (Further advice on dealing with antecedents can be found in the guidance note ‘Consideration of antecedents by the Investigations Panel’);
- In any other circumstances where the IP is of the view that additional representations will assist it in its decision on case to answer.
Issuing only a final decision
- The IP may decide not to issue a preliminary decision where it is sure that further written representations will not change its decision under Rule 15.
- This may be the appropriate course of action where, for example:
- the facts of the case are simple;
- the evidence disclosed by the parties comprehensively addresses the issues in the case;
- the parties have been afforded multiple opportunities to provide representations.
- The Panel will approach this issue with caution. In the event of uncertainty, it is advisable to issue a preliminary decision and invite further submissions from the parties.
*An updated set of Investigations Rules came into force on 1st April 2022. The above guidance applies in cases where the complaint was submitted to ARB after 1st April 2022. If your complaint was submitted before this date please contact your Investigations Officer for a copy of the applicable guidance.