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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.

On 30 September 2020 the Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) issued a one year suspension order to Mr John Kirkpatrick of County Down following a finding of unacceptable professional conduct (UPC).

Mr Kirkpatrick was appointed to carry out site inspections by the developer of a semi-detached house in Belfast. Architects Certificates were signed in January 2015 and May 2017, and the final certificate confirmed Mr Kirkpatrick had visited the site at appropriate intervals and would be liable for a period of 6 years from the date of the certificate.

It was alleged Mr Kirkpatrick failed to adequately inspect the site in accordance with the Architects Certificate dated 22 May 2017 and that he acted inappropriately by attempting to enter into a financial settlement with the Complainant on condition that she withdraw her complaint from ARB. It was also alleged that Mr Kirkpatrick failed to co-operate fully and promptly with ARB during its investigation into the complaint against him.

Mr Kirkpatrick did not attend the hearing and was not legally represented. In his written submissions, he maintained that he had trusted the developer to resolve the issues, although that relationship had now broken down. Mr Kirkpatrick also outlined his personal circumstances, which had prevented him from dealing with the matter fully, and expressed some regret for the issues that had arisen.

The PCC found the allegations proven and agreed these failings were serious enough to amount to UPC. When determining the sanction the PCC took into account that Mr Kirkpatrick had no previous adverse regulatory history and his unblemished career spanning 45 years. The PCC also recognised that he had experienced some personal difficulties, which had impacted on his ability to respond to these matters.

However, the PCC noted that Mr Kirkpatrick’s failings represented a pattern of poor conduct over an extended period of time rather than an isolated incident, and those failings had resulted in a significant impact on his clients.   It found he also failed to provide any evidence of remorse or real insight into the seriousness of his failings or engage meaningfully with the disciplinary process. It therefore decided a one year suspension order should be imposed in order to uphold proper professional standards and the reputation of the profession.

A copy of the decision can be found here.

—ENDS—

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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.

For further information please contact media@arb.or.uk or 020 7580 5861.

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