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.
Mrs Helen Victoria Phillips of Carlisle Jessop LLP (trading as CJ Architects), Somerset has been suspended from the Architects Register for a period of 6 months. Mrs Phillips was found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct (UPC) at a hearing of ARB’s Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) which took place on 26-28 November 2019 and 9-11 March 2020.
The allegations related to Mrs Phillips’ actions as the Contract Administrator on a project. This was a role she took on following a breakdown in the relationship with the original Contractor, who Mrs Philips knew personally, and the Complainant in this case. It was alleged that her actions were misleading, dishonest and fell significantly below the standard of a reasonably competent architect in that she did not manage the project’s costs and valuations competently and issued a Practical Completion Certificate when it was not appropriate to do so.
Mrs Phillips denied the allegations, stating the Complainant had instructed he did not want the former Contractor to be involved in the project and that issuing a Practical Completion Certificate was an appropriate way to bring an end to the works in accordance with the contract terms.
The PCC found all facts proven. It noted Mrs Phillips demonstrated limited insight into the impact of her actions on the reputation of and public confidence in the profession, and that her dishonesty related to a critical aspect of the project. The PCC further noted that she demonstrated limited remediation and there remained a risk of her actions being repeated if she were allowed to practise unrestricted.
When determining the sanction, the PCC acknowledged Mrs Phillips had engaged in the regulatory process and accepted her actions fell below the standards expected of her. It also noted her failings were isolated in an otherwise unblemished career of approximately 20 years, she had not personally gained financially from her failings and she had expressed regret for her actions.
The PCC determined Mrs Phillips failings were so serious she should be suspended from the Architects Register for a period of 6 months in order to maintain standards and uphold confidence in the profession. While suspended from the Register Mrs Phillips is not permitted to use the title ‘architect’ in business or practice.
A copy of the decision can be found here.
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.
For further information please contact Kate Howlett (ARB Communications Manager) by email at KateH@arb.or.uk or 020 7580 5861.