Prosecution themes in 2019
The title ‘architect’ is protected by law in the UK, under the Architects Act 1997.
It can only be used in business or practice by someone who has the education, training and experience needed to join the Architects Register. Businesses can only use ‘architect’ in their name if there is an architect in control and management of all of the architectural work.
By protecting the title ‘architect’, we help to protect the public. As part of our role as regulator, we maintain the Architects Register, the definitive list of the UK’s 42,000+ architects. You can quickly and easily check the Register online to be sure someone is a genuine architect.
We also investigate concerns about misuse of the title, resolving them swiftly and informally where we can. Where it’s needed, we can and do prosecute. We also engage with the media and other organisations to raise awareness of the protection the regulation of architects provides.
In 2019 we conducted 741 investigations into people misusing the title ‘architect’. In the majority of cases the issue was resolved swiftly without the need for court action. Where the misuse was sufficiently serious we prosecuted the individual and/or business. All of the prosecutions we brought in 2019 resulted in a criminal conviction.
Below you can find more on some of the most common themes from our 2019 title misuse prosecutions, and the Courts’ responses to them.
Title misuse offences committed online can occur in social media posts or profiles, company websites or online business listings for example. These sources are often checked and recorded during our investigations to be used as evidence.
The first prosecution to conclude in 2019 focused on title misuse on the Companies House website as well as several online business directories and the individual’s own website. The Court was mindful of the risk posed to the public by misleading advertising like this and the individual was convicted on five counts of misusing the title.
Website metadata is ‘hidden’ keywords on a webpage that help search engines and readers find the page. Metadata formed part of the evidence in all but one of our title prosecutions in 2019. In one 2019 case, the title ‘architect’ was misused in the metadata of every page of a website to promote the business of an unregulated individual to those searching the web for an ‘architect’.
Social media includes platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. A post, hashtag or profile may form part of our evidence if it has been used in business or practice. This type of evidence was involved in two thirds of our prosecutions in 2019. In one case, the use of ‘#architect’ and ‘architect’ within image descriptions resulted in conviction and a fine.
Online directories are websites which list information about a number of different businesses. Some provide details on a range of businesses and some specialise on certain sectors. Sometimes the businesses listed have control over the information shown and sometimes it is listed without their knowledge/consent. In one 2019 case, an individual had actively misused the title ‘architect’ on five separate platforms and was successfully prosecuted for doing so.
Later in the year misuse of the title ‘architect’ on social media was considered in the context of responsibility.
The Court noted that architects are entitled not to be in competition or undercut by those who are not architects. It concluded that, although the individual did not explicitly commission the use of the title when using a third party, they were responsible for the content that was generated and were ineffective in removing it when notified of the issue.
A different court for another case similarly concluded that an individual’s limited contact with their web designers to remedy an issue was insufficient and that they could have done more to resolve the issue.
In another 2019 prosecution the Court noted that despite numerous warnings from us, a company continued to imply its services were provided by experienced architects.
Given the offences involved identity theft and risked public safety, and in light of the individuals reluctance to engage with us or the Court, the maximum fine available for each offence was imposed by the Court – the penalty totalling £24,318 in all.
Ignoring regulatory advice
An individual was found guilty of four counts of the criminal offence of misusing the title after the Court’s attention was drawn to the prolonged nature of the offending. The term was used despite no architect being in control of the architectural work provided. The individual was first informed of an issue in 2014 and while some breaches were remedied along the way others continued.
A different Court heard that another individual maintained a view that there was nothing preventing them using the title ‘architect’ despite information to the contrary from us. In this case both the individual and their company were convicted.