At a hearing of the Architects Registration Board’s Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) on 17-19 January 2012, architect John Grant Stephen of Edinburgh was found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct and erased from the Register. He was found not guilty of serious professional incompetence.
The allegations brought by the Board were in respect of two separate complaints. The first was in two parts. It was alleged that Mr Stephen failed and/or delayed in the payment of professional fees to a third party and the Committee found this allegation proved. Mr Stephen initially had realistic expectations of paying the debt, but there came a time when he promised butfailed to propose any payment structure, despite the complainant having made it clear he was in financial hardship owing to the debt. Mr Stephen provided his assurance that he would treat the debt as an urgent matter, but later denied any liability and defended a court claim the complainant then made, without grounds to do so. The second allegation was that following the non-payment of monies, the complainant obtained a decree from the Edinburgh Sheriff’s Court requiring payment of the debt but that it remained unpaid. This allegation was not made out as the Committee did not consider that this demonstrated a lack of integrity.
The second complaint arose as Mr Stephen had written a letter to an intended mortgage lender on behalf of the complainant stating that he was acting as architect. When the complaint was raised by the Board, he denied that he had ever been engaged as such. Mr Stephen said that he had prepared architectural drawings which were simply made available to the proposed purchaser.
The allegations in respect of the second complaint were put to Mr Stephen in the alternative, in that if he was found to be acting as architect for the client, then he failed to set out adequate terms of engagement and failed to carry out work without delay and within agreed cost limits; this was an allegation of unacceptable professional conduct and serious professional incompetence. Alternatively, if he was found not to be acting as architect, then Mr Stephen acted dishonestly when writing a letter to a mortgage company purporting to be so.
At the outset of the hearing Mr Stephen denied all allegations and said that when writing to the mortgage company, he was doing so only to assist the complainant. However, during the course of the hearing he changed his plea to admit that, in a limited capacity, he had carried out architectural services, restricted to assisting the second complainant to obtain a mortgage advance, and that he should have put those terms in writing.
The Committee did not accept this version of events and found that there was no architectural retainer between Mr Stephen and the complainant and so dismissed the allegation of serious professional incompetence. It found that the letter written by Mr Stephen to the mortgage company was dishonest because it contained several statements that were fabricated. The letter was written to enable the complainant to obtain a mortgage advance against a property which he was to purchase from Mr Stephen’s son. Some funds from the mortgage advance were also paid to Mr Stephen personally in order to provide finance for work to the property.
The Committeedecided the only appropriate sanction was that of erasure.
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)
Any money raised by fines imposed by the Professional Conduct Committee is paid to HM Treasury.