Mr David Williams
THE ARCHITECTS REGISTRATION BOARD
PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT COMMITTEE
In the matter of
Mr David Williams (040698H)
held on 15 September 2014
12 Bloomsbury Square
Mr Julian Weinberg (Chair)
Mr Donal Hutchinson (PCC Architect Member)
Ms Linda Read (PCC Lay Member)
Ms Nicola Hill (Clerk to the PCC)
Mr Iain Miller of Bevan Brittan appeared on behalf of the ARB.
Mr Williams did not attend and was not represented.
- In this case, the Board is represented by Mr Iain Miller. Mr Williams has not attended this hearing and is not represented. This matter has come before this Committee pursuant to the PCC’s jurisdiction to make a disciplinary order under Section 15(1)(b) of the Architects Act 1997. Such an order can be made where an architect has been convicted of a criminal offence “other than an offence which has no material reference to the architect’s fitness to practise”. This Committee recognises that this is a matter for the Committee’s discretion and that it is open to this Committee to make no order.
- Mr Williams not having attended the hearing, the Committee first considered whether notice of the hearing had been served in accordance with Rule 6 of the Professional Conduct Committee Rules (“the Rules”). Mr Miller submitted that notice, containing the required information, had been served on the Respondent by a letter dated 28 July 2014, more than the 42 days as prescribed by the Rules. Having heard and accepted the advice of the Clerk, the Committee is satisfied that notice had been served in accordance with the Rules.
- The Committee then considered whether to proceed in his absence. The Committee has applied Rule 11 of the Rules, the principles set out by the Court of Appeal in R v Hayward  EWCA 168, R v Jones (Anthony William)  1 AC 1and Tait v. The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons  UKPC 34.
- The Committee has paid particular attention to the following factors in deciding whether it is in the interests of justice to proceed:
4.1 The nature and circumstances of the respondent’s absence and in particular whether the behaviour may be deliberate and voluntary;
4.2 Whether, despite the respondent being absent, they have expressed a wish to be represented at the hearing;
4.3 The extent of the disadvantage to the respondent in not being able to give evidence having regard to the nature of the case;
4.4 The seriousness of the allegations;
4.5 The general public interest that a hearing should take place within a reasonable period of time to which it relates.
- The Committee has exercised the utmost care and caution in reaching its decision, and has carefully considered the overall fairness of the proceedings. It has balanced the potential impact on the Respondent’s livelihood and reputation in hearing the matter today in his absence, as against the public interest in proceeding with the hearing in a timely manner.
- In reaching its decision, the Committee has had regard to the contents of the signed Acknowledgement of Notice of Hearing form dated 7 August 2014 together with a statement in mitigation from Mr Williams dated 7 August 2014.
- Given the contents of the correspondence, the Committee is satisfied that the Respondent has been given an adequate opportunity to make arrangements to appear before the Committee to argue his case in person and that he has chosen to voluntary absent himself. The Committee saw no evidence that led it to conclude that by adjourning the matter, the Respondent would attend the hearing on any future date and the Committee notes that the Respondent has not sought an adjournment in any event and has indicated that he will not be attending the hearing. Taking all these factors into account, the Committee has concluded that it is fair and in the interests of justice to hear the case in his absence.
- The allegation in this case is that on 5 December 2008, the Respondent was convicted on indictment at the Oxford Crown Court of offences other than an offence which has no material relevance to his fitness to practise as an architect in that he was convicted of eight offences of making indecent photographs or pseudo-photographs of a child. The Respondent was sentenced on 9 January 2009 to 4 months imprisonment on each of the eight counts, each term to run concurrently. In addition, he was placed on the Sex Offenders Register for seven years. It is further alleged that the Respondent notified the Board of his conviction by a letter dated 18 May 2014. This was almost six years after his conviction and allegedly in breach of standard 10.5 of the Code of Conduct 2002.
- At the commencement of the hearing, Mr Miller withdrew the allegation that the Respondent failed to report the criminal offence to ARB within the specified period. This is because it had not been considered by the Investigation Panel prior to its inclusion in the report. The Respondent was informed of this proposed application by a letter from Mr Miller dated 9 September 2014, receipt of which was acknowledged by the Respondent in an email dated 15 September 2014. It therefore only falls to this committee to consider the first allegation against the Respondent.
- This Committee does not intend to rehearse the full facts of the case that gave rise to the conviction. It will suffice to summarise the Judge’s comments in that:
“You have not been in trouble for the whole of your life….You are a man of good character…Plainly, you are suffering a considerable amount of remorse, anxiety, worry for your family as well as for yourself and, no doubt, you were going through some period of personal distress at the time you offended…The fact is that you have been found to have over 1000 images of which fifty are at level 4 and you were looking at these images for some two years or so…you looked at image after image of children who have been abused and will have suffered emotional harm, maybe physical damage for the sole purpose of satisfying the perverted sexual interests or the perverted curiosity of men like you….this (case) is within the category of offences that are so serious that there must be a short sentence of imprisonment.”
- In reaching its findings, the Committee has carefully considered the documentary evidence presented to it in the Report of the Board’s Solicitor together with the 9 pages of documents exhibited to it. It has also considered a statement of mitigation from the Respondent dated 7 August 2014.
- The Committee finds the conviction proved by virtue of the production of a copy certificate of conviction together with the Respondent’s admission.
- Integrity, maintaining the reputation of architects and having respect for others are fundamental tenets of the profession. Being convicted of serious criminal offences, particularly of the nature committed by the Respondent, brings both the Respondent and the profession into disrepute. The Committee is therefore satisfied that the Respondent’s conviction is such that it is materially relevant to his fitness to practise.
- The Committee then considered whether a disciplinary order was necessary having regard to the public interest, which includes the need to protect the public, to maintain confidence in the profession and the Board and to declare and uphold proper standards of conduct and behaviour. The matters for which the Respondent was convicted were patently serious and materially impacts not only on the Respondent’s reputation, but also on that of the profession generally. The Committee therefore has no difficulty in finding that a disciplinary order is necessary and has considered them in ascending order of severity.
- The Committee has carefully considered all the evidence and submissions made during the course of this hearing. It has heard and accepted the advice of the Clerk. It has borne in mind that the purpose of imposing a disciplinary order is not to punish an architect for a second time for the same offence, but to protect the public and maintain the collective reputation of the profession. It has taken into account the Respondent’s interests, the indicative sanctions guidance and the need to act proportionately, taking into account all the aggravating and mitigating factors in this case.
- The Committee has borne in mind that the Respondent is a man of previous good character with no known adverse regulatory history. It has borne in mind the contrition and remorse expressed in his letter of mitigation dated 7 August 2014. He has demonstrated a substantial degree of insight in admitting to “overwhelming feelings of embarrassment, shame, regret, betrayal of my family, friends, professional associates and my profession and daily wish I had not done it.” He appreciates that his conviction impacts on the reputation of the profession. However, it has balanced against this the seriously aggravating factor that he has nevertheless been convicted of serious offences of a sexual nature.
- It first considered whether to impose a reprimand and has concluded that, given the serious nature of the convictions, this would be a wholly inappropriate order to protect the public interest. Similarly, the committee considers a penalty order to be inappropriate for the same reason.
- The Committee then considered whether to impose a suspension order. However, the Committee considered that the Respondent’s conviction for a serious offence of a sexual nature is fundamentally incompatible with continuing to be a registered architect. Notwithstanding the contrition and remorse expressed by the Respondent, the Committee nevertheless considered that the convictions are so serious that a suspension order would not be the appropriate and proportionate order to impose and that only an erasure order would meet the public interest, which order the Committee therefore imposes.
- The Committee recommends that the Respondent is not eligible to apply for re-entry to the profession for a period of seven years, which the Committee considers is the appropriate and proportionate period of time given the nature and seriousness of the convictions and the need to uphold proper standards of behaviour and conduct.
- That concludes this determination.