At a hearing of the Architects Registration Board’s Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) on 19 October 2017, Mr Nicholas John of Nicholas John Architects, London, was found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct and suspended from the Register of Architects for two years.
The PCC heard that Mr John had been instructed to prepare drawings for a planning application for a listed building. The appointment was made through the MyBuilder.com website. There followed a disagreement between Mr John and his client as to what work was required, which resulted in him promising to refund £800.
It was alleged that Mr John failed to provide an effective and efficient service in that he failed to establish with his client what the scope of work should be. It was also alleged that he had failed to undertake his work faithfully and conscientiously and that he failed to deal with a dispute appropriately. It was further alleged that he delayed in refunding money to his client after advising her that he would repay it, and making that repayment conditional on the removal of adverse feedback from the MyBuilder.com website.
Mr John attended the hearing and was legally represented. He denied the factual allegations and denied that they amounted to unacceptable professional conduct and serious professional incompetence.
The PCC found it proven that Mr John had failed adequately to provide an effective and efficient service to his client in establishing clear agreement with her as to what the scope of work should be. It is best practice to record in writing what is agreed with a client in order to help with regularising any misunderstanding between parties. In the Committee’s view, Mr John had failed in this regard. The PCC did not however find it proved that he had failed to complete the work he had undertaken with due diligence.
The Committee found that Mr John failed to deal with a dispute appropriately. It considered that his texts to his client were needlessly aggressive, inappropriate and pertained to nationality when there was no basis for doing so. It further considered that by failing to honour his statement that he would repay his client for several months, and by subsequently making it subject to a condition that she would retract unfavourable feedback, Mr John had acted with a lack of integrity.
In the view of the PCC the failings demonstrated a course of conduct which fell substantially below the standard expected of a registered architect, and amounted to unacceptable professional conduct.
In considering sanction, the PCC noted that while Mr John had engaged in the regulatory process and not personally gained from his failings, he had demonstrated very little insight into his failings. The texts sent to his client, which made an inappropriate reference to her ethnicity, could not be excused.
Of most concern was that Mr John had been reprimanded by the PCC on 5 June 2015 after being found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct. These findings related to his conduct which occurred less than a year after the previous sanction was imposed for similar failings. The recurrence of Mr John’s unacceptable professional conduct in light of the fact that it was accepted by the PCC in June 2015 that he had taken corrective steps to prevent a recurrence of his failings, was deemed to be particularly serious.
In those circumstances, the Committee imposed a two year suspension order from the Register of Architects.
Notes for Editors
ARB is the statutory body established by Parliament under the Architects Act 1997 to regulate the UK architects’ profession in the public interest. The Act requires ARB (among other things) to:
- Maintain the Register of Architects (Section 3)
- Prescribe qualifications for entry to the Register of Architects (Section 4)
- Deal with competence to practise (Section 9)
- Issue a Code which lays down standards of professional conduct and practice (Section 13)
- Regulate use of the title “architect” and prosecute those who use it unlawfully (Section 20)
The PCC is established under Schedule 1, Part II of the Architects Act and is required to consider any report referred to it. The Committee determines whether an architect is guilty of unacceptable professional conduct or serious professional incompetence. Where a guilty finding is made, the Committee 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.
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