Public Interest factors that may be taken into account by the Investigations Panel when considering what is a ‘case to answer’
This note should be read in conjunction with the Guidance Note ‘What is a ‘case to answer’”
The role of the Investigations Panel is to decide whether allegations of unacceptable professional conduct and serious professional incompetence should be referred to the Professional Conduct Committee. The Investigations Panel will consider whether there is a case to answer, taking into account whether the evidence provides a realistic prospect of a finding of unacceptable professional conduct and/or serious professional incompetence, whether it is in the public interest for the case to proceed to the PCC.
Factors to consider
Each case must be considered on its own merits, however the Investigations Panel may take into account the following ‘public interest’ factors when considering whether there is a case to answer. The list is by no means exhaustive or definitive, nor is it meant to be used as a means of mitigation.
- The need to protect the public;
- Matters of health & safety;
- Any on-going risk, or the risk of repetition of the alleged failings;
- The degree of impact of the alleged misconduct/ incompetence on the client;
- The complainant’s circumstances e.g. particular vulnerability or ignorance of the building industry that required extra consideration;
- Whether there are other avenues of redress e.g. with the contractor or through Alternative Dispute Resolution;
- Issues of professional practice that need to be considered by the PCC as a deterrent for other architects;
- Any recognition of failure or insight by the architect (although the position in respect of an architect being unable to admit liability when insurers are on notice should be kept in mind);
- The health of the architect (both at the time of the alleged misconduct/ incompetence and at the point of investigation) and whether relevant evidence of any issues has been provided.
The Panel will always assess the seriousness of the facts that support the allegations and consider all the circumstances in relation to the case.