Professional Standards Guidance Note – Guidance for architects representing themselves at the Professional Conduct Committee
This guidance is to be read together with “Guidance for architects appearing before ARB’s Professional Conduct Committee”and the Investigations and Professional Conduct Committee Rules. It has been drawn up to assist architects who choose to represent themselves at a Professional Conduct Committee(PCC) hearing. It is intended as guidance only, and should not be considered as legal advice in any way. If you need legal advice, you should contact your legal adviser for this.
Before deciding to represent yourself at the PCC, you should consider carefully whether you feel able to do so. You should also ensure that you have explored other options for assistance, for example, obtaining free legal representation.
The Professional Conduct Committee
The PCCsits in panels of three – one legally qualified person who acts as Chair, one member of the public, and one architect.
The Chair of the Committee will run the proceedings, and give directions to both parties on how they expect the case to progress. Because the Chair is legally qualified, they will be aware of the difficulties a “litigant in person” faces. They will use their discretion in allowing you to present your case as you see fit, but they also have a responsibility to ensure that the case is run in the interests of justice.
The Clerk to the Committee
The Clerk to the PCC is there to ensure that proceedings are run in line with both the law and the rules of the Committee. The Clerk will be able to deal with any questions you have about procedure, but will not be able to advise you on how best to present your case.
You are allowed to bring along a friend or colleague to help you in presenting your case (a ‘McKenzie friend’). This person may sit by you and provide advice, take notes and assist with documents, but they are not allowed to address the Committee themselves (unless requested to by the Chair).
Any documents you wish to rely in your defence should be submitted to the Board no later than 14 days before the date of the hearing. Each document should have page numbers, and when referring to a particular document in making your submissions, it is easier for all parties if you quote the page number in question.
The order of proceedings is set out in Professional Conduct Committee Rule 15. This order may be varied if the Chair considers it appropriate to do so. In general, the Board’s solicitor will present the case first and call any witnesses to support the allegation(s). You will be given the opportunity to cross-examine any of those witnesses before presenting your own case and calling your own witnesses. If you are found guilty of any of the charges levelled against you, you will be given a further opportunity to address the Committee in mitigation before any penalty is issued.
If the Board’s solicitor calls any witnesses, you will have the opportunity to ask them questions before you present your own case. This is your opportunity to raise any matters the witness has given in evidence that will conflict with your own submissions. It is important to understand that you must ask questions for the witness to answer, rather than giving your own evidence at this stage.
When making your own submissions, you may choose to make them under oath. The Committee will attach more weight to sworn evidence. If you do choose to give evidence under oath, the Board’s solicitor will be given the opportunity to cross-examine you on what you have said.
If you intend to rely on the evidence of others, you should submit a summary of what they are expected to say at the hearing. It is important to understand that they may need to attend the hearing to give testimony, unless you have received assurances prior to the hearing that their evidence will be accepted “as read”. If they do not attend the hearing, the Committee may attach less weight to their evidence.
Witnesses appearing before the Committee will not be allowed into the hearing before they are called to give evidence. They are not allowed to consult with anyone during their testimony, even if there is a break in the proceedings.
There is the possibility that your witness may have to wait a considerable time before being called, so you should contact us before the hearing to discuss the likely schedule. Witnesses are free to sit in the public gallery once they have given their evidence.
If you are found guilty of the charge(s), you will be given the chance to speak in mitigation before the Committee decides on a penalty. This is your opportunity to address the Committee on why the penalty should be a lesser one. For example, you may wish to point out that you have a previous good record, provide references to your character, or explain that any previous failings have now been addressed.