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Mr James Robert Weighton

THE ARCHITECTS REGISTRATION BOARD

PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT COMMITTEE

In the matter of

Mr James Robert Weighton (040944H)

held on 29 January and 4 April 2014

at

ARB

8 Weymouth Street

London

W1W 5BU

—————–

Present:

Ms Alexandra Marks (Chair)

Mr Stephen Neale (PCC Lay Member)

Ms Judy Carr (PCC Architect Member)

Ms Nicola Hill (Clerk to the PCC)

—————–

 

Mr Iain Miller of Bevan Brittan appeared on behalf of the ARB.

Mr Weighton appeared in person and was not represented.

 

1.The Architects Registration Board (“the Board”) was represented by Mr Iain Miller of Bevan Brittan LLP (“the Board’s Solicitor”).

 

2.Mr Weighton attended the hearing and gave evidence on oath. He was not represented.

 

3.Mr Weighton faced allegations that, in breach of Sections 14(1)(a) and 14(3) of the Architects Act 1997 (“the Act”), he was guilty of unacceptable professional conduct in that:

 

a)he acted dishonestly and/or without integrity by making one or more statements to his client which he knew, or ought to have known, were misleading and/or discreditable to the profession contrary to Standard 1.2 Architect’s Code of Conduct 2010 (“the Code”); and/or

 

b)he failed to carry out work faithfully and conscientiously by delaying and/or failing to submit planning permission and/or failing to keep his client informed contrary to Standard 6 of the Code; and

 

c)he failed to deal with complaints or disputes appropriately contrary to Standard 10 of the Code; and/or

 

d)he failed to cooperate with the Board contrary to Standard 11 of the Code.

 

4.The Board’s Clerk reminded the Panel that the Board’s Professional Conduct Committee Rules (in force with effect from 1st January 2013) (“the Rules”) provide that the burden of proving the case falls on the Board’s Solicitor and that the Committee shall apply the civil standard of proof (the balance of probabilities).

 

5.In reaching its decision, the Panel gave careful consideration to the papers, submissions and evidence presented by the Board’s Solicitor. The Panel also took account of Mr Weighton’s submissions and his answers to questions from the Panel.

 

6.The Panel gave full consideration to the papers, correspondence and documentation which Mr Weighton had submitted.

 

FINDINGS OF FACT

 

7.On the basis of the evidence, the Panel found proved – on the balance of probabilities – the following facts:

7.1           Mr Weighton is a registered architect who carries on practice from offices in Stamford, Lincolnshire. His firm is called Robert Weighton Partnership.

7.2          Mr Weighton explained in his evidence that he was introduced to the Complainant during the summer of 2008. At that time, Mr Weighton was working on a nearby hotel in Devon, a listed building, to restore the original character and add a series of lodges. That venture had been most successful and had prospered.

 

7.3          The Complainant was an investor in the Deer Park hotel (“the hotel”) in Honiton, Devon. With the owner, Mr N, the Complainant wished to maximise development opportunities at the hotel. He engaged Mr Weighton in autumn 2008 as “lead consultant” to help formulate a strategy for the development, and participate in discussions with the local planning authority. It was envisaged that Mr Weighton would establish a Master Plan with an agreed Design and Development Brief for the estate.

 

7.3          On 9 September 2008, Mr Weighton sent a letter of engagement to the Complainant, appending RIBA Master Planning Services (signed by both parties and dated 9 September 2008) and RIBA Standard Conditions for Appointment. The former expressly excluded Work Stage MP4 “Planning Application.”

 

7.4          During his evidence, Mr Weighton explained that two planning permissions had previously been granted (in March 2002) for change of use at the hotel to create six self-catering cottages and one dwelling, and another for change of use to create three dwellings. The former had been commenced so was extant, the latter had apparently not. The Complainant envisaged some kind of further residential housing development in the grounds of the hotel but, during a meeting with a senior planning officer of East Devon District Council (“EDDC”) in January 2009, EDDC made clear that any application would need to be supported by strong evidence of need (as well as various documentation, including a unilateral undertaking to relinquish the extant planning permission for the six self-catering cottages).

 

7.5          Mr Weighton testified that, during the rest of 2009, he considered how best to approach proposed development at the hotel bearing in mind the Local Plan, local authority requirements and the listing of the hotel building. He concluded that, to meet the planners’ requirements that any development “support the hotel” and the local economy, as well as satisfying the client’s objectives, construction of “fishing lodges” might be a possibility.

 

7.6          Mr Weighton testified that, having engaged in a series of meetings with Mr N and the Complainant during 2009, on 30 December 2009, some 15 months after his original letter, he sent a further engagement letter to the Complainant, stating “we are now embarked on a different course, heading towards an application for the first stage of development”. Mr Weighton’s letter set out a much reduced scope of work, for a greatly reduced total fee, for a more limited development than originally envisaged. Included in the revised scope of work was an application for detailed planning permission under the heading “Scheme Design RIBA Work Stage D1”. The fee for that Work Stage was stated as £7,100 (plus VAT).

 

7.5          A further two months later, on 3 March 2010, Mr Weighton sent the Complainant a near identical letter to that dated 30 December 2009.

 

7.6          On 9 July 2010, the Complainant emailed Mr Weighton, asking for an update saying “Very surprised not to have heard from you at all. A few weeks ago you said you.. would give me a report. You felt we would be close to planning by Spring.” In the same email, the Complainant asked for regular updates, “say once a fortnight”.

 

7.7          During his evidence to the Panel, Mr Weighton explained that, for the fishing lodges proposal, ecological surveys needed to be carried out and that they took nearly a year to complete. On 22 July 2010, Mr Weighton replied to the Complainant’s enquiry, apologising for the delay but saying “there was nothing I could do to speed up the ecological surveys”. However, he said that “positioning, designs, drawings etc for the Lodges were done a long time ago and sent to the planners. They are generally agreed with officers.” He added that, after a meeting with the ecologists the following week, he was“going on afterwards to meet the planners to finalise the submissions with any amendments.”

 

7.8          On 30 July 2010, Mr Weighton submitted an invoice to the Complainant for professional fees as per the appointment letter dated 3 March 2010. The invoice included £600 for “Meetings with yourselves, consultants and Local Planning Authority”. According to the Complainant’s schedule of payments, this invoice was paid in full by the Complainant a month later. That payment, when aggregated with others made to Mr Weighton over the period February 2010 to June 2011, totalled £35,720.93.

 

7.9          During the remainder of 2010, the Complainant continued to prompt Mr Weighton for progress reports, and on 2 November 2010 asked Mr Weighton for “a tiny report every 2 weeks about what’s happening on the planning front..”.

 

7.10        On 8 December 2010, the Complainant checked with EDDC whether any planning application had been submitted and was informed that the planning authority central team was “not aware of any pre-application discussions or a recent application for lodges at The Deer Park.”

 

7.11        However, the following day, Mr Weighton emailed the Complainant that “I am meeting the Local Authority on Tuesday to see if we can get a decision.. I will tie them to a date and a clear timetable.”

 

7.12        A month later – on 10 January 2011 – in response to the Complainant’s email asking “where exactly we are now in terms of planning permission?”, Mr Weighton stated “we are awaiting permission. I will check with them this morning and email again.”

 

7.13        On 11 March 2011, Mr Weighton emailed the Complainant saying “I had a meeting with East Devon last week.. and I am due to have what I hope is a final meeting with the Environment Agency..so that the application can be processed.”

 

7.14        On 21 March 2011, Mr Weighton emailed the Complainant saying “Good meetings .. last week which have finally cleared up all the technicalities. We are amending ..our drawings today and resubmitting to the council tomorrow. I will also send you a copy of the fully revised application.”

 

7.15        Around a month later, on 18 April 2011 and then again on 28 April 2011, the Complainant asked Mr Weighton for the planning application. On 4 May 2011, Mr Weighton replied that he would forward copies at lunchtime. Two days later, on 6 May 2011, he emailed the Complainant a planning application dated 21 March 2011.

 

7.16        Following the Complainant’s request for an indication of timing, Mr Weighton emailed on 10 May 2011, “I am expecting to meet with planners again next week.. but should be a formal decision next month..”

 

7.17        Around six weeks later, on 21 June 2011, Mr Weighton emailed the Complainant “I think that finally we are the last lap (sic). We have recently agreed a host of further details about everything..”

 

7.18        On 15 August 2011, the Complainant emailed Mr Weighton “We seem to have deviated from the path you promised to follow.. to give me an update.. on planning.. every fortnight. Even if there is no news I would like to hear that.” On 23 August 2011, Mr Weighton replied that he would be back at work the following day and report at the end of that day.

 

7.19        On 5 September 2011, Mr Weighton emailed the Complainant, apologising for not being in touch but concluding that “Planners also seem.. ready to recommend approval. They have promised to send a date..”

 

7.20        Over a fortnight later, on 23 September 2011, the Complainant again asked for an update to which Mr Weighton replied he would “write at length in the morning..”

 

7.21        On 12 October 2011, the Complainant again emailed asking for the status of the planning permission to which Mr Weighton replied the following day “All details agreed and going to Committee Meeting.”

 

7.22        On 19 December 2011, the Complainant emailed Mr Weighton, referring to their meeting that morning and saying “do let me know how your meetings with Messrs Digby and Chen at the council go.”

 

7.23        The Complainant asked for updates by email on 24 January 2012, 8 February 2012, 17 February 2012, 20 February 2012, receiving Mr Weighton’s reply on 21 February 2012 explaining that further changes had been made to the fenestration and “as soon as received [by the planner] he will be able to give me the date for determination”.

 

7.24        On 16 March 2012, the Complainant emailed Mr Weighton to say that another week had passed without a report and “I fear there is no point in continuing this relationship.” Mr Weighton responded,“Certainly do not want to give up at this stage.”

 

7.25        On 12 April 2012, the Complainant emailed Mr Weighton stating “We never hear back from you so please consider our relationship ended and return all the papers.”

 

7.26        On 13 April 2012, the Complainant emailed Mr Weighton that, having made enquiries, EDDC had stated that they had received no planning application in relation to the hotel since 2002. The Complainant asked Mr Weighton for an explanation.

 

7.27        On 16 April 2012, the Complainant again emailed Mr Weighton that the names “Messrs Digby & Chen who you gave us as your contacts at the council have not been recognised by anyone at the council offices”, and again asking Mr Weighton for an explanation.

 

7.28        On 30 April 2012, the Complainant wrote to the Board to complain about Mr Weighton’s conduct.

 

7.29        On 14 June 2012 and again on 13 July 2012, the Board wrote to Mr Weighton, seeking his response to the complaint.

 

7.30        On 24 July 2012, the Central Planning Team at EDDC emailed the Complainant’s consultant, Alister King-Smith, referring to a site meeting the previous day, setting out the Council’s position were a planning application to be submitted for fishing lodge/holiday accommodation within the grounds of the hotel, namely that “fundamental policy issues remain which have to be overcome for the proposal to be supported by officers.”

 

7.31        On 9 August 2012, the Board again emailed Mr Weighton who replied the same day that he would respond by next Monday.

 

7.32        The Board emailed Mr Weighton on 10 August 2012 and, no response having been received, wrote to him on 6 September 2012 seeking his reply.

 

7.33        On 13 September 2012, Mr Weighton emailed the Board that his response had been posted.

 

7.34        On 20 September 2012, Mr Weighton emailed the Board saying “I don’t know if you have had the chance to go through my submission yet..” to which the Board replied that no submission had been received and on 25 September 2012, the Board asked Mr Weighton to email it.

 

7.35        On 18 October 2012, having received no response, the Board wrote to Mr Weighton by email and by registered post, seeking a response by 25 October 2012, failing which the matter would be referred to the Investigations Committee for consideration.

 

7.36        Having received no response from Mr Weighton, on 21 December 2012 and 19 March 2013, the Board wrote to him again.

 

7.37        On 2 April 2013, Mr Weighton replied by email attaching various documents and stating “I do not to have any comments on my defence to the original complaint: i.e. that [the Complainant] employed others to carry out “an extensive refurbishment programme” for this hotel without informing me..Since the project I had been engaged on was predicated on it “enabling” such work..the ground had been cut away beneath me and my submissions were no longer tenable. It was at that point that I stopped work.”

 

7.38        On 19 April 2013, the Board sent Mr Weighton the Investigation Panel’s preliminary decision, and giving him the opportunity to submit final written representations.

 

7.39        On 3 May 2013, Mr Weighton emailed the Board that “I have sent you a rebuttal statement.. and will email scanned version over the weekend.”

 

7.40        Despite repeated requests of Mr Weighton by the Board, no such rebuttal statement was ever received by the Board from Mr Weighton.

 

7.41        On 5 September 2013, the Board’s Solicitor wrote to EDDC planning department, seeking assistance in verifying whether or not Mr Weighton had submitted any application to EDDC and whether or not there had been any communications with him during the relevant time.

 

7.42        On 30 September 2013, EDDC replied that, during the period between January 2008 and April 2012:

 

  • it had no record of any application being submitted for the Deer Park Hotel (other than an unrelated Listed Building Consent application);

 

  • its only record of discussions regarding development at the hotel was a pre-application enquiry following a site meeting on 15 January 2009 at which Mr Weighton had been present (referred to at paragraph 7.4 above); and

 

  • it employed a planning officer called Digby and a senior planning officer called Shwenn.

 

DISHONESTY

 

8.            As the Board alleges that one of more of Mr Weighton’s statements to the Complainant were dishonest, the Panel accepted the Clerk’s legal advice that it should apply the two limbed test for dishonesty set out in Twinsectra v Yardley [2002] UKHL 12 namely:

 

“(1)        it must be established that the defendant’s conduct was dishonest by the standards of reasonable and honest people; and

 

(2)          that he himself realised that by those standards his conduct was dishonest although he should not escape a finding of dishonesty because he set his own standards of honesty and does not regard as dishonest what he knows would offend the normally accepted standard of honest conduct.”

 

9.            The Panel noted that in considering dishonesty in the context of proceedings where the standard of proof is the civil standard (the balance of probabilities), it must take particular care. As said by Mr Justice Singh in the case ofUddin v GMC [2012] EWHC 2669 (Admin) The real issue in many cases may be whether the conduct took place and with what state of mind. For example, was a false representation made? But even if it was, was it done knowing that it was false or may it have been, for example, innocent or even a negligent mistake?Moreover, the Panel noted the Legal Clerk’s advice that no finding of motive was necessary to support a finding of dishonesty.

 

10.          With all the above in mind, the Panel listened carefully to Mr Weighton’s evidence and answers to questions.

 

11.          During his testimony, Mr Weighton did not seek to deny that he had sent the emails referred to in paragraph 7 above, nor did he claim that the copies the Panel had seen were in any way inaccurate or incomplete. However, by way of explanation, Mr Weighton said that, for example:

 

  • he had met the planners, albeit on the other nearby hotel project on which he was working, but had “taken the opportunity to say” to them that he was working also on the Deer Park Estate, and had shown them sketches of the proposed fishing lodges.
  • his meetings with the planners were not “formalised” nor were there written notes because he was not submitting plans but asking the planners “for their thoughts”.
  • when he emailed the Complainant on 22 July 2010 that the drawings etc. had been “a long time ago..sent to the planners”, in fact they had not been sent but taken by him and shown to the planners.
  • in that same email, he had referred to “finalis[ing] the submissions” because he was close to finalising the design for the lodges.
  • when referring in his email to the Complainant on 9 December 2010 to meeting the Local Authority “to see if we can get to a decision” the “decision” he meant was to proceed with the application (not the planning decision.)
  • when asked by the Complainant in his email dated 4 January 2011 “have we put in for any planning permission yet?”, his reply on 10 January 2011 “we are awaiting permission” if misleading, was an error on his part.
  • in his email dated 21 March 2011 to the Complainant he had referred to “re-submitting”  drawings because he had changed drawings previously shown to the planners.
  • references in his email of 10 May 2011 to “things running smoothly”, “should be a formal decision next month” and that he would “check dates of planning meetings” were explicable otherwise than on the basis that a planning application had in fact been made.
  • in the Complainant’s email of 15 August 2011 “where are we now in the planning process the plans and the application has gone in?”, the Complainant was aware that he had never provided a clear decision on the Section 106 agreement (whether to surrender the extant planning permission) nor made a clear statement that the lodges would be used as part of the hotel.
  • in his own email dated 5 September 2011, reference to the planners being “ready to recommend approval” was because they were keen on the scheme.
  • In his further email dated 13 October 2011, reference to “all details agreed and going to Committee meeting” was to convey that the matter would be dealt with by Committee, not by planning officers under delegated powers when and if the application was submitted.

 

12.          Throughout his testimony and answers to questions, Mr Weighton denied that he had misled or intended to mislead the Complainant that the planning application had been submitted when in fact it had not. On the contrary, he said the Complainant was well aware that the application could not have been submitted without decisions on his part having yet been made (for instance about giving up the extant planning consent, and preparing the outstanding business plan for use of the fishing lodges with the hotel). Moreover, Mr Weighton said, the Complainant was “astute”and would have realised that his cheque for the planning application fee had not been cashed so the application could not have been submitted.

 

13.          Because Mr Weighton’s evidence was contradictory and inconsistent, and his answers to questions from the Board’s Solicitor and the Panel at times evasive, the Panel did not find him a reliable witness. For example, in relation to the refurbishment works carried out to the hotel (a listed building) which he claimed made his development proposal “untenable”, he gave various accounts of the dates and individuals from whom he learnt this news:

 

a)in an email to the Board on 2 April 2013, he stated “I only learnt of [works to the hotel, a Listed Building] through a flyer received from the hotel itself”. From evidence Mr Weighton produced to the Board on 28 January 2014, it was evident that the “flyer” comprised a letter from the hotel to Mr Weighton and his wife dated 3 July 2012;

 

b)However, in his defence statement (submitted to the Board on 28 January 2014), Mr Weighton stated that“towards the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012, it became clear that works were being carried out to the listed building.. of which I was unaware of the works until it was mentioned to me by the conservation officer, who I was meeting on another matter.”

 

c)At the hearing, Mr Weighton testified that in autumn 2011, Mr N told him that the hotel was “being given a coat of paint to make it look smart for the season” but that by January 2012 he was “really worried” and “extremely miffed” that he had not been kept informed of works to the hotel, feared that the underlying business case for the development was undermined and that he lost confidence in the scheme.

 

d)In cross-examination, Mr Weighton said that he had a meeting with the Complainant (he thought in January 2012 but it could have been in December 2011) where he became angry when told that works were being undertaken – yet as late as 16 March 2012 indicated that he “Certainly do not want to give up at this stage.”

 

14.          Another example of Mr Weighton’s inconsistent evidence was about the planners’ knowledge of drawings etc. for the development:

 

a)in an email to the Complainant dated 22 July 2010, he wrote that the “positioning, designs, drawings etc for the lodges were done a long time ago and sent to the planners. They are generally agreed with officers.”

 

b)However, in his evidence at the hearing, he said that he had merely “shown” drawings to the planners at the end of a meeting he was having with them on another project.

 

c)In his written statement to the Board (on 28 January 2014), Mr Weighton stated “I did visit the planning department on a number of occasions to see the duty planner.” However, is clear from enquiries made of the planning department by the Board’s Solicitor in September 2013 that EDDC’s planning department has no record of any meetings at all concerning this project nor any drawings.

 

15.          The Panel further finds that by sending the Complainant an email on 6 May 2011 with the planning application form attached (when in fact the form, despite a completed declaration that “we hereby apply for planning permission”, was merely a draft dated 21 March 2011), Mr Weighton deliberately led the Complainant to believe that the planning application had been submitted on or around 21 March 2011.

 

16.          Despite Mr Weighton’s testimony that:

  • as a result of meetings with the Complainant;
  • because the Complainant “must have been aware” that his cheque for the planning fee had not been cashed; and
  • the Complainant was aware that a business case and business plan needed to be submitted in order for the application to proceed

 

In light of:

  • the Complainant’s repeated requests (over the period January 2011 to March 2012) for updates on the planning position;
  • the absence of any reference in the numerous exchanges of emails between the Complainant and Mr Weighton between March 2011 and April 2012 to the requisite business case and business plan being outstanding;
  • the Complainant’s evident surprise when informed after direct enquiries of the planners in April 2012, that no application had ever been submitted

 

The Panel does not find credible Mr Weighton’s suggestion that the Complainant was aware all along that no planning application had ever been submitted.

 

17.          Further, the Panel finds that Mr Weighton missed numerous opportunities to correct the Complainant’s clear and often expressed impression (for instance in his email dated 15 August 2011 “where are we now in the planning process the plans and the application has gone in?”) that the planning application had been submitted. On the contrary, Mr Weighton’s responses to the client’s enquiries about the status of the planning (stating on 10 May 2011“should be a formal decision next month”, on 21 June 2011, “I am confident a result is coming our way” on 5 September 2011, “planners ..are ready to recommend approval” and 13 October 2011 “All details agreed and going to Committee Meeting”) persisted over the course of many months. In the Panel’s view, these numerous instances of misleading responses to the Complainant’s enquiries, for which Mr Weighton did not at the hearing (nor prior to the hearing) offer coherent explanation, satisfied the Panel that his behaviour was deliberate rather than inadvertent.

 

18.          In short, the Panel finds that Mr Weighton’s statements by email to the Complainant about the status of the planning application were misrepresentations, not made innocently, or even negligently, but were dishonest by the standards of reasonable and honest people, and that Mr Weighton himself realised that by those standards his conduct was dishonest. Accordingly, it finds the facts of allegation 1 proved on the basis of dishonesty.

 

UNACCEPTABLE PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT

 

19.          Section 14 of the Act defines unacceptable professional conduct as conduct which falls short of the standard required of a registered person. Section 13 of the Act states that failure to comply with the provisions of the Code shall not be taken of itself to constitute unacceptable professional conduct but shall be taken into account in any proceedings. The Code also expressly states that failure to comply with the provisions of the Code shall be taken into account. On the basis of the facts found proved above the Panel finds that Mr Weighton;

 

19.1        acted dishonestly by making statements to the Complainant about the planning application and its status which he knew were not true and which, in the Panel’s view, he did not honestly believe were true contrary to Standard 1.2 of the Code;

 

19.2        failed to carry out work faithfully and conscientiously by failing ever to submit a planning application, and by failing to keep the Complainant informed contrary to Standard 6 of the Code. The Panel did not accept Mr Weighton’s evidence that the Complainant was well aware of the need for further documentation prior to submission of the application (such as a business case, and business plan, which had not been prepared) as to which Mr Weighton’s evidence was unclear, inconsistent and unsubstantiated by any documentary evidence;

 

19.3       failed to report fortnightly to the Complainant as he had requested, on at least three occasions (by emails dated 22 July 2010, 2 November 2010 and 15 August 2011) despite Mr Weighton’s agreement by email on 12 November 2010 to do so;

 

19.4       failed to deal with complaints or disputes appropriately contrary to Standard 10 of the Code. The Panel noted that Mr Weighton never replied to emails from the Complainant dated 13 April 2012 and 16 April 2012 (respectively asking him for an explanation of the absence of any planning application and the professed ignorance by the planning authority of the officers he had named). In each email, the Complainant explicitly stated that, in the absence of satisfactory explanation, he would contact Mr Weighton’s professional body. Read in the context of the Complainant’s email of 12 April 2012, terminating his relationship with Mr Weighton – and the statement that in the absence of a satisfactory explanation the Complainant would report this matter to the Board – the Panel considers it clear, despite Mr Weighton’s view to the contrary, that these two emails from the Complainant were complaints which required a response.

 

19.5       failed to cooperate with the Board contrary to Standard 11 of the Code. The Panel noted that Mr Weighton admitted this allegation: apart from his email of 2 April 2013 (attaching documents such as his terms of appointment and evidence of his insurance cover), he had failed to respond substantively to any of the Board’s repeated correspondence, from 14 June 2012 until late afternoon on the day before this hearing (a period of over 18 months).

 

20.         The Panel takes the view that these failings, especially given the range of breaches of the Code, the period over which the incidents took place, Mr Weighton’s conduct in ignoring his client’s express requests for regular updates, and the Panel’s finding of dishonesty against him, when taken together comprise serious deviation from his professional responsibilities and thus Mr Weighton is clearly guilty of unacceptable professional conduct.

 

 

MITIGATION

 

21.          The Panel heard Mr Weighton’s submissions and mitigation with regard to sanction and in particular took account of the fact that he had made written representations to the Board; that he had attended this hearing in person, unrepresented; that he did not benefit financially from the conduct complained of (save for the professional fees that he had charged and that the client had willingly paid); that this unfortunate series of events has blighted an otherwise blameless professional career; that he was shocked by the Panel’s decision, and especially its finding of dishonesty; that he expressed regret at what happened and particularly at letting down his client; and that he had since reorganised his practice and its procedures. The Board confirmed that Mr Weighton had no previous disciplinary history.

 

22.          However, the Panel noted that Mr Weighton’s expressions of regret were limited and that he failed fully to acknowledge the shortcomings in his conduct, or explain how they came about; that he had failed to address the Panel’s finding of dishonesty, beyond expressing his shock; that his failure to respond to the Board’s correspondence gave the Panel concern that his conduct might be repeated; and the unacceptable professional conduct of which the Panel had found him guilty had potential seriously to damage not only his reputation as a long-standing member of the profession but also the profession itself.

 

23.          The Panel regarded as serious the unacceptable professional conduct of which it found Mr Weighton guilty. The conduct ranged across a number of standards laid down by the Code; arose from a number of different incidents over a considerable number of months (albeit on the same project, but echoed in his failure to respond to the Board’s enquiries); and showed a disregard of clients’ best interests. The Panel noted that clients were let down as a result of his conduct, and that there was no evidence that he had ever apologised to them.

 

SANCTION

 

24.          The Panel noted that the purpose of sanctions is not punitive but to protect the public interest; maintain standards within the profession; uphold the reputation of the profession; maintain confidence in the regulatory process; and act as a deterrent to other members of the profession. In the Panel’s view, breaches of the Code such as those committed by Mr Weighton undermine the public’s confidence in the architects’ profession and damage the profession’s reputation.

 

25.          The Panel first considered whether its finding of unacceptable professional conduct was serious enough to warrant a disciplinary order of any kind. The Panel considered that it was serious enough to merit a disciplinary order in accordance with the Act. The Panel therefore considered in turn the sanctions available to it, starting with the least severe. Having considered the particular circumstances of this case, and having regard to the Indicative Sanctions Guidance issued by the Board, and taking account of the various aggravating and mitigating factors set out in the Guidance and identified by the Panel as applicable in this case, the Panel concluded that neither a reprimand nor a penalty order adequately reflected the seriousness of Mr Weighton’s conduct. The Panel lacked confidence that a repeat offence would not occur, and regarded Mr Weighton as lacking any insight into his dishonesty, and thus the seriousness of his actions. However, the Panel viewed Mr Weighton’s behaviour, whilst dishonest, as not at the extreme end of misconduct since it involved no criminal offending, nor personal gain, nor substantial loss to clients. Moreover, these charges arose from one project for one client and while comprising a number and range of breaches of the Code, are not fundamentally incompatible with continuing to be an architect. Accordingly, rather than erasure, the Panel considered the appropriate sanction as suspension for a period of two years.

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