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Before the Hearing

It is the Chair’s responsibility to ensure:

 

  • that the Committee is aware of what cases are to be heard, who is attending and with what legal representation, and whether any witnesses will be called;

 

  • that the Committee has all the correct papers – this should be confirmed with the Clerk to the Committee;

 

  • that if the architect is not present, whether there were any issues relating to the service of the Notice of Hearing. The Committee should consider the Notice as properly served if it had been sent by registered letter to the architect’s registered address (or to their legal representative);

 

  • that their fellow Committee members are aware of the way  they propose to manage the hearing to ensure it is conducted fairly and on time. They should also be given an opportunity to ask questions or raise issues that may concern them;

 

  • whether there will be any preliminary arguments, and if so the type of preliminary argument (e.g. application to adjourn, abuse of process application etc.);

 

  • that all parties are called into the hearing room in time for the start of the hearing (usually 10am).

 

If the parties are not ready to start, the Chair will ask them:

 

  • why they are not ready,
  • what the outstanding issues are, and
  • how long they will take to resolve.

 

The Chair will consider the reasons given and if appropriate, will delay the start of the hearing.  This may or may not be the time suggested by the parties.

 

During the hearing

It is the Chair’s responsibility to ensure that:

 

  • the proceedings follow the Professional Conduct Committee Rules;

 

  • all parties are informed of the Committee’s role, the membership of the panel, and the identity of any other relevant parties in the room;

 

  • all those appearing before the panel engage with the process as effectively as possible.  This would include, for example, ensuring that they understand any questions being put to them, and that reasonable adjustments are made regarding issues of diversity (such as religious beliefs or disabilities).  The Chair should consider intervening if a witness appears unduly stressed while giving evidence and, if appropriate, take a short adjournment;

 

  • the time allotted to a particular case is used effectively.  If necessary, the Chair should intervene if either party (or their representative) strays from the main issue, or repeats arguments already heard and understood by the Committee.  The Chair may also wish to discuss issues relating to time-keeping, attendance of witnesses, etc. with the parties;

 

  • that unrepresented architects, who may have little understanding of the proceedings, are kept informed throughout the hearing of what stage has been reached, and what they can and cannot say at any given point;

 

  • the Committee members concentrate on the issues they are being asked to consider, and intervene should any member stray from those matters, ask inappropriate questions or become argumentative;

 

  • any advice given by the Clerk to the Committee in private is passed on to the parties in the open session of the hearing, and that the parties are given the opportunity to respond to that advice;

 

  • breaks are taken at appropriate times.

 

During Deliberations

It is the Chair’s responsibility to ensure that:

 

  • the Committee members understand the issue/s under consideration and remain focused on it/them;

 

  • time is used effectively;

 

  • all members are involved in the deliberations and decision making.  If necessary, the Chair should bring in any member who appears reticent and ask any member who appears to be dominating the discussion to allow others to speak;

 

  •  in the absence of unanimous agreement on any particular matter, a vote is taken and that the Committee’s decision will reflect the outcome of that vote.

 

Decisions

It is the Chair’s responsibility to ensure that:

 

  • all Committee members are involved in drafting the decision, i.e. the structure it should follow, the issues identified, etc.;

 

  • the Clerk to the Committee (who should not be involved in the initial drafting process) is satisfied that the decision is legally correct, relevant and clear;

 

  • the decision is clear and reasoned, explains how the decision was reached, and which evidence the Committee chose to rely on.  The Committee does not need to give reasons for all findings of fact, but should bear in mind the advice of Mr Justice Wall:

 

“In every case, as it seems to me, every Tribunal needs to ask itself the elementary questions: is what we have decided clear? Have we explained our decision and how we have reached it in such a way that the parties before us can understand clearly why they have won or why they have lost? 

 

If, in asking itself those questions the PCC comes to the conclusion that in answering them it needs to explain the reasons for a particular finding or findings of fact that, in my judgment, is what it should do. Very grave outcomes are at stake. Respondents to proceedings before the PCC of the GMC are liable to be found guilty of serious professional misconduct and struck off the Register. They are entitled to know in clear terms why such findings have been made.”

 

(Phipps v The General Medical Council [2006] ECWA Civ 397)

 

  • in terms of penalty imposed, why the Committee chose to impose that particular sanction, including why other sanctions were dismissed.
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