Mr Ian Sherwood
THE ARCHITECTS REGISTRATION BOARD
PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT COMMITTEE
In the matter of
Mr Ian Sherwood (054136B)
9 May 2014
North Promenade Sea Front
Mr Julian Weinberg (Chair)
Mr Donal Hutchinson (PCC Architect Member)
Mr Stephen Neale (PCC Lay Member)
Mr Stephen Battersby (Clerk to the PCC)
Mr Iain Miller of Bevan Brittan appeared on behalf of the ARB.
Mr Sherwood attended the hearing and was not represented.
1. In this case, the ARB is represented by Mr Iain Miller. Mr Sherwood has attended this hearing but was 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.
2. The allegation in this case is that on 12 March 2013, the Respondent was convicted on indictment at the Southwark Crown Court of an offence other than an offence which has no material relevance to his fitness to practise as an architect in that he was convicted of conspiracy to cheat the Public Revenue. The Respondent was sentenced on 25 March 2013 to 42 months imprisonment and was disqualified under Section 2 Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986 for a period of 5 years. The Respondent notified the ARB of his conviction by letter dated 21 March 2013. The Committee notes that, as one of five defendants, the Respondent faced two charges, was convicted of the first count after a trial where he was legally represented, and was acquitted on the second count.
3. 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:
a. “The frauds in this case concerned and were based upon an entirely bogus film project. The film was to be called “Landscape of Lives” and it was to have a budget of £19.6 million. This false project was the basis of three claims to repayment of VAT and one claim for film tax credit with another in preparation at the time of arrests which were made in April 2011. The false VAT claims were the subject of the first count on the indictment of conspiracy to cheat the Revenue. The false claims to film tax credit were the subject of the second count“.
4. One VAT repayment of £796,000 was made and two further VAT repayment claims for £100,000 and £591,000 were submitted but not paid.
5. In sentencing the Respondent, the Judge stated:
a. “Yours was, in my view, the least role of the conspirators present here today. You allowed your offices to be used as a front for the company AB Productions. You maintained lies at a meeting with Miss Batley, the VAT Inspector, and you sent through to her what you must have known to be false documents afterwards. Nonetheless you did not yourself make or sign off on any claim. You are a man of positive good character. You clearly worked very hard for your family and for your firm. Your sound hard working career as an architect is likely to be lost. The firm that you run with your partner, Mr Jones, may fail. Taking all that into account the sentence in your case will be one of three and a half years.“
6. 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 110 pages of documents exhibited to it. It has also considered a statement of mitigation from the Respondent together with a bundle of exhibits including a number of character references, five of whom gave live evidence on the Respondent’s behalf attesting to his character.
7. The Committee finds the conviction proved by virtue of the Respondent’s admission. The Committee notes, however, that the Respondent steadfastly denies any wrongdoing and that he is “in the process of appealing this conviction to show that I was no more than a mere victim as the Crown accepted others to be. Grounds for an appeal relate to the jury not fully understanding the case and being confused in reaching its verdict, together with inappropriate legal counsel advice which has also led to be being unable to obtain further legal advice…..“.
8. This Committee cannot however, go behind the conviction. The fact remains that at the date of this hearing, the Respondent was convicted of a serious offence of dishonesty for which he received a lengthy custodial sentence. Neither his conviction nor sentence have been successfully appealed. Honesty and integrity are fundamental tenets of the profession and the Committee is therefore satisfied that the Respondent’s conviction is such that it is materially relevant to his fitness to practise.
9. In exercising its discretion, the Committee therefore first 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 ARB and to declare and uphold proper standards of conduct and behaviour. The matter for which the Respondent was convicted was 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.
10. 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 Mr Sherwood’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 noted the contents of the numerous positive testimonials and has heard live evidence from five character witnesses. He has demonstrated some insight to the extent that 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 a serious offence of dishonesty.
11. It first considered whether to impose a reprimand and has concluded that, given the serious nature of the conviction, 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.
12. The Committee then considered whether to impose a suspension order. However, the Committee considers that the Respondent’s conviction for a serious offence of dishonesty is fundamentally incompatible with continuing to be a registered architect. Notwithstanding the positive references provided on his behalf, the Committee nevertheless considers that the conviction is 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 until after the expiry of his disqualification under Section 2 Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986 on 25 March 2018 as until that time, the Respondent would remain subject to a court imposed sentence for his dishonest behaviour.
13. That concludes this determination.