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Mr Martin Hadlington

THE ARCHITECTS REGISTRATION BOARD

PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT COMMITTEE

IN THE MATTER OF

MARTIN HADLINGTON (054202D)

held on

11, 12 and 13 August 2015

At

Novotel Glasgow Centre

181 Pitt Street

Glasgow

G2 4DT

—————–

Present:

Mr Julian Weinberg (Chair)

Mrs Linda Read (PCC Lay Member)

Mr Roger Wilson (PCC Architect Member)

Mr Stephen Battersby (Clerk to the PCC)

—————–

 

Mr Hadlington attended and was unrepresented.

Ms Louise Culleton of Blake Morgan appeared on behalf of the Board.

 

 

1.         In this case, the Board is represented by Ms Louise Culleton. Mr Hadlington has attended this hearing but is not legally represented. Mr Hadlington faces a charge of unacceptable professional conduct based on thirteen allegations as follows in that he:

 

Allegation 1: Failed to adequately set out his terms of engagement in writing;

 

Allegation 2: Failed to respond to the Complainants’ email communications of the following dates in a timely manner:

a.         27 March 2012;

b.         30 April 2012;

c.          27 July 2012;

d.         5 September 2012;

e.         19 September 2012.

 

Allegation 3: Following an email of 28 September 2012 written by him indicating further communication from him during the following week, failed to communicate with the Complainants until 2013;

 

Allegation 4: Failed to promptly inform the Complainants when the building contractors withdrew from the project in summer 2012;

 

Allegation 5: On 28 September 2012, informed the Complainants that the building contractors were still involved with the project, which was:

a.         Inaccurate and/or

b.         Misleading and/or

c.          Dishonest.

 

Allegation 6: Failed to provide estimates for the cost of the build;

 

Allegation 7: Failed to adequately progress the Building warrant application, in that;

a.         He failed to adequately inform the Complainants about progress;

b.         He failed to provide the Complainants with relevant documentation about the Building Warrant until 2013;

c.          He responded on 4 February to a letter of 16 August 2012 from Argyll and Bute Council in relation to queries about the Building Warrant, despite a deadline of 14th November 2012 given by the Council for a response;

d.         He obtained the Building Warrant in march 2013 despite being paid for the preparation of the application in October 2010 and receiving a cheque to go with the submissions of the application in March 2012.

Allegation 8: Failed to provide the Complainants with the Planning Permission documentation until February 2013 despite it having been granted on 3 August 2010;

 

Allegation 9: Failed to deal with invoices without undue delay, including:

a.         An invoice from M and B, the Quantity Surveyor, dated 29 October 2009 (date redacted) which was sent to the Complainants for payment in April 2010;

b.         An invoice from M and B dated 22 December 2010 which was received by the Complainants on 19 April 2011 with an overdue notice;

c.          An invoice dated 1 December 2011 which was sent to the Complainants on 14 February 2012;

d.         The fee note for the work of the engineers, DN Associates, for the Building Warrant, dated 22 December 2010 which was provided to the Complainants for payment in April 2011;

 

Allegation 10: In relation to allegation 9(a) above, redacted the date of the invoice (which had been dated 29 October 2009) which was

i Misleading and/or

ii Dishonest

 

Allegation 11: Failed to develop an Action Plan and estimated timetable for the work, despite being requested to do so by the Complainants on 30 April 2012;

 

Allegation 12: Failed to ensure that the building work, which was already delayed to start in 2012 from summer 2011, started in 2012;

 

Allegation 13: Failed to deal with the Complainants’ complaint appropriately, in particular:

a.         He did not have a formal complaints procedure;

b.         He did not respond to the Complainants’ complaint dated 6 February 2013;

c.          Following the Complainants’ letter of complaint of 3 July 2013, he failed to acknowledge the letter within the 10 day timescale and failed to respond within the 30 day timescale, responding to the complaint in a letter dated 21 August 2013.

 

2.         Prior to the charges being read, Ms Culleton made an application pursuant to Rule 13b of the Professional Conduct Committee Rules to amend charges 6 and 9(d) so that they would now read as follows:

·      Allegation 6: Failed to provide estimates for the cost of the build in line with the Complainants’ budget;

·      Allegation 9(d): The fee note for the work of the engineers, DN Associates, for the Building Warrant, dated 22 December 2010 which was provided to the Complainants for payment in April 2011 with an overdue notice.

 

3.         She submitted that the proposed amendments did not change the substantive nature of the allegations but that the amended wording made the allegations more specific. She submitted that there was no prejudice to the respondent in allowing the amendments. Mr Hadlington did not make any submissions in response save for the fact that he did not object to the proposed amendments.

 

4.         Having heard and accepted the clerk’s advice, the Committee was satisfied that there was no prejudice to the respondent in allowing the amendment and granted Ms Culleton’s application to allow the amendments to the charges.

 

5.         Ms Culleton also identified that in respect of charge 9, charge 9(b) was in effect, a duplication of charge 9(c). She therefore stated that the Board would not proceed on that charge. As a result, the Committee discharged that charge.

 

6.         The Respondent admitted the following allegations; 1, 2(a-e), 3, 7 (a, b d and e), 8, 9 (a, c and d as amended), 12 and 13 (a, b and c). The following allegations were denied; 4, 5 (a, b and c), 6 (as amended), 10 (i and ii) and 11.

 

7.         This case arises out of a complaint made by Mr and Mrs S, (“the Complainants”) in September 2013 in respect of the professional services carried out by the Respondent.

 

8.         The allegations that form the background to this case are that having initially engaged the Respondent in 2006 in respect of a proposed extension of their house, the project was due to start in late 2011. However, the start of the project was substantially delayed. It is alleged that the respondent’s failings included:

 

·      ineffective communication;

·      failing to forward invoices form other professional involved in the project;

·      not undertaking necessary tasks in relation to the Building Warrant in a timely manner;

·      not providing an estimate of costs;

·      not responding to the Council and

·      not forwarding documentation despite it being available to the respondent.

 

9.         The Complainants further allege the additional failings in relation to the Respondent’s failure to respond to their complaints.

 

10.     It is the Board’s case that the Respondent acted in breach of Standard 11.1 of the Architects Code: Standards of Conduct and Practice 2002 (“the 2002 Code”) and in breach of Standards 1, 6 and  10 of the Architects Code: Standards of Conduct and Practice 2010 (“the 2010 Code”);

 

11.     In reaching its decisions, the Committee has carefully considered the live evidence of the Complainant and the Respondent, together with the documentary evidence presented to it in the Report of the Board’s Solicitor, the 117 pages of documents exhibited to it which includes the Respondent’s written responses to the allegations. The Respondent did not produce any documentary evidence. The Committee found the evidence of Mrs S to be credible and consistent and not prone to exaggeration or embellishment. In contrast, the Committee found the Respondent’s evidence, at times, to lack credibility and to be inconsistent as identified later in this decision.

 

12.     The Committee has accepted the legal advice given by the Clerk. It has had regard to the fact that the burden of proof is on the Board and that the civil standard applies, namely, proof on the balance of probabilities. Whether the alleged conduct amounts to UPC is a matter for the Committee’s independent judgment to which no burden of proof applies.

 

13.     The Committee makes the following finding of facts:

 

Allegation 1:

 

14.     In light of the Respondent’s admission, the Committee finds the facts proved. The Committee has had sight of the correspondence the Respondent sent to the Complainants in February 2006 and June 2009. Whilst those letters set out his proposed fees for sketch schemes, survey and design work, and for proposed design drawings, for submitting the planning permission application and for work in relation to the Building Warrant application, it does not satisfy the requirements of the 2002 Code. The Respondent accepts this.

 

15.     As such, the Committee finds that the Respondent acted in breach of Standard 11.1 of the 2002 Code.

 

Allegation 2:

 

16.     In light of the Respondent’s admissions, the Committee finds the facts proved.

 

17.     By way of background, Mrs S gave evidence that in February 2011, the Respondent produced revised drawings and a revised costs estimate in May 2011. She stated that the costs were outside their financial budget. She said that the Respondent explained that the costs could be revised when accurate builder’s costs were known. In July 2011, the builders (A and S) suggested some design changes and requested the Respondent provide more detailed design drawings. She said that she and her husband were keen to get the project moving but the Respondent said that the builders would not be able to start work until 2012 as they were delayed on another project. In January 2012, the Complainants contacted the builders directly and they said that they too were keen to start working on the project.

 

18.     In February 2012, she said that they requested a progress update from the Respondent. He responded, requesting a cheque for his fee to be able to submit the Building Warrant application which the Complainants promptly provided.

 

19.     On 27 March 2012, she said that they emailed the Respondent for an update (a copy of which is included in the bundle before the Committee), but the Respondent did not reply. A chaser email was sent on 30 April, again, to which the Respondent did not reply. Whilst not the subject of this allegation, a further email requesting a response was sent on 12 May, to which the Respondent also did not respond.

 

20.     On 27 July, Mrs S stated that a further email was sent to the respondent asking about costs and a possible start date. She said that the Respondent did not reply to that email. She said that the Respondent failed to reply to further emails sent on 5 and 19 September. A response was received on 28 September from the Respondent that the builders were still involved in the project, but he also suggested a potential alternative contractor. He concluded his letter stating “I will let you know next week, and we can discuss where to go from here”. Mrs S stated that no further communication was received from the Respondent in 2012.

 

21.     Standard 6 of the 2010 Code requires an architect to carry out their work faithfully and conscientiously:

 

1.                   You are expected to carry out your work promptly and with skill and care and in accordance with the terms of your engagement.

2.                   You should carry out your professional work without undue delay and, so far is reasonably practicable, in accordance with any time-scale and cost limits agreed with your client.

3.                   You are expected to keep your client informed of the progress of work undertaken on their behalf and of any issue which may significantly affect its quality or cost.

 

22.     In the circumstances, by failing to respond the correspondence the subject of this allegation, the Committee finds that the Respondent acted in breach of Standard 6 of the 2010 Code.

 

Allegation 3:

 

23.     For the reasons stated above, the Committee finds the facts proved. By failing to respond as promised, the Committee finds that the respondent has acted in breach of Standard 6 of the 2010 Code.

 

Allegation 4:

 

24.     The Committee finds the facts proved for the following reasons.

 

25.     Following delays with the project, the Complainants contacted the builders directly in January 2013. Mrs S said that they told her that they had informed the Respondent in the summer of 2012 that they were withdrawing from the project. She said that the Respondent had not told them that. The Respondent says that at the time of his emails, including his email of 28 September 2012, he believed the position as he stated it to be correct. He says that it was only in September, and hence, therefore not during the summer, that it became clear to him that the contractor was going to be unavailable.

 

26.     The Respondent stated in evidence that he was not made aware that the contractors were withdrawing from the project until late September 2012. He stated that it would have been after he wrote his email on 28 September, but before the end of the month. He stated that he was given this information when speaking to A, one of the contractors on the phone, but he had no record of that conversation and had not confirmed the conversation either to A, or to the Complainants.

 

27.     This explanation was inconsistent with his explanation he gave in his letter of 2 March 2014 in his letter to the Board in which he stated:

 

Later in the summer following my telephone calls they contacted me to state that unfortunately due to a family bereavement they would not be unable to undertake the project at that time”.

 

28.     The Committee has borne in mind that the evidence of Mrs S regarding her conversation with S in January 2013 is hearsay. As such, less weight can be attached to that evidence than would be the case if S had attended to give evidence which could be tested by cross examination. However, her recollection is consistent with what the Respondent states he knew in his letter referred to above, and therefore enables the Committee to conclude that, albeit hearsay, her recollection of the conversation can be relied upon.

 

29.     The Committee therefore accepts the evidence of Mrs S that she was told that the contractors had told the Respondent that they had withdrawn from the project in the summer of 2012 and that the Respondent did not inform them. It has seen no evidence that he did, either promptly, or at all.

 

30.     The Committee therefore finds the facts alleged proved. The Committee finds that by failing to inform the Complainants as alleged, the Respondent acted in breach of Standard 6 of the 2010 Code.

 

Allegation 5:

 

31.     The Committee finds the facts not proved for the following reasons:

 

32.     The Board relies on the contents of the Respondent’s email dated 28 September 2012. The Committee first considered the contents of that email to establish whether the Respondent informed the Complainants as alleged. Only if it finds that it did, will it consider whether by doing so, the Respondent acted as alleged in sub charges a, b and c.

 

33.     The Committee has carefully considered the contents of the email in question. It states:

 

I have still not received anything from Alan and Steve-which is extremely disappointing, and frustrating. The only thing I can do now is call them again and find out if they really can do your project”.

 

34.     Given the wording of that email, the Committee finds that the Respondent did not inform that Complainants that the building contractors were still involved with the project. He merely states uncertainty over the position and says that he will take steps to find out what is happening. Given that the Board are unable to establish the head of the charge, the Panel has therefore not gone on to consider whether what was written in the email was inaccurate, misleading or dishonest.

 

Allegation 6:

 

35.     The Committee finds the facts proved for the following reasons.

 

36.     It is agreed evidence between the parties that the Respondent only provided two estimates of costs to the Complainants, Indicative Costs No 1 for a total of £360,000 and Indicative Costs No 2 for £348,000.

 

37.     Mrs S stated in evidence, and it was accepted by the Respondent, that the Complainants had a total budget of £200,000-£250,000 for which they had raised a mortgage. Whilst the Respondent indicated that he might be able to further reduce the total costs estimate, it is agreed evidence between the parties that no estimate in line with the Complainants’ budget was ever provided to the Complainants.

 

38.     The Committee therefore finds the facts alleged proved. The Committee finds that by failing to inform the Complainants as alleged, the Respondent acted in breach of Standard 6 of the 2010 Code.

 

Allegation 7:

 

Allegation 7(a)

 

39.     In light of the Respondent’s admission, the Committee finds the facts proved. Mrs S gave a detailed account in her statement which she adopted in her evidence, as to the failure to be kept informed about progress in progressing the Building Warrant application. The Respondent accepts that allegation by way of admission. In essence, in July 2010, the Respondent stated that the Building Warrant drawings would be “completed very soon” yet the application for the Building Warrant was only submitted in August 2012, over two years later. The Respondent had failed to respond fully to the Council regarding problems with the application but those problems had not been communicated to the Complainants. In the circumstances, the Committee finds the Respondent did not adequately progress the Building Warrant application as alleged.

 

40.     The Committee therefore finds the facts alleged proved. The Committee finds that by failing to inform the Complainants as alleged, the respondent acted in breach of standard 6 of the 2010 Code.

 

Allegation 7(b)

 

41.     In light of the Respondent’s admission, the Committee finds the facts proved. The Respondent accepted in his evidence that he did not progress the Building Warrant application as alleged and that he should have done so. The Committee therefore finds the facts alleged proved. The Committee finds that by failing to provide the relevant documentation to the Complainants as alleged, the Respondent acted in breach of
Standard 6 of the 2010 Code.

 

Allegation 7(c)

 

42.     The Committee finds the facts proved for the following reasons:

 

43.     The Committee has had sight of the letters referred to in the charge. The Respondent accepted in his evidence that he did not progress the Building Warrant application as alleged. However, he stated that must have spoken to a Building Control Officer at the Council as, had he not done so, the application would have lapsed. However, he did not have a record of any such conversation and it had not been confirmed in writing.

 

44.     In failing to comply with the deadline alleged, which the Respondent admits, the Committee finds that he failed to adequately progress the Building Warrant application as alleged. The work was not actually completed until February 2013.

 

45.     The Committee therefore finds the facts alleged proved. The Committee finds that by failing to respond to the Council as alleged, the respondent acted in breach of Standard 6 of the 2010 Code.

 

Allegation 7(d)

 

46.     In light of the Respondent’s admission, the Committee finds the facts proved. The Respondent accepted in his evidence that he did not progress the Building Warrant application as alleged and that he should have done so. The Committee therefore finds the facts alleged proved. The Committee finds that by only obtaining the Building Warrant in March 2013, despite being paid for the preparation of the application in October 2010 and having received a cheque in support of the application in March 2012, the Respondent acted in breach of standard 6 of the 2010 Code.

 

 

 

Allegation 8:

 

47.     In light of the Respondent’s admission, the Committee finds the facts proved. The Respondent accepted in his evidence that he did not provide the planning permission documentation to the Complainants as alleged and that he should have done so. The Committee therefore finds the facts alleged proved. The Committee finds that the Respondent acted in breach of standard 6 of the 2010 Code.

 

Allegation 9:

 

Allegation 9(a)

 

48.     The Committee finds allegation 9 proved by reason of the Respondent’s admission. The Committee has had sight of the invoice in question. The Respondent accepts the evidence of Mrs S in that he admits redacting the date and sending it to the Complainants in April 2010. In taking six months to send the invoice to the Complainants, the Committee finds that the Respondent failed to deal with the invoice without undue delay.

 

49.     The Committee therefore finds the facts alleged proved. The Committee finds that the Respondent acted in breach of Standard 6 of the 2010 Code.

 

Allegation 9(b)

 

50.     This charge was discharged.

 

Allegation 9(c)

 

51.     The Committee finds allegation 9(c) proved by reason of the Respondent’s admission. The Committee has had sight of the invoice in question. The Respondent accepts the evidence of Mrs S in that he admits taking two months to forward the invoice in question. By doing so, the Committee finds that the Respondent failed to deal with the invoice without undue delay.

 

52.     The Committee therefore finds the facts alleged proved. The Committee finds that the Respondent acted in breach of Standard 6 of the 2010 Code.

 

Allegation 9(d)

 

53.     The Committee finds allegation 9(d) proved by reason of the Respondent’s admission. The Committee has had sight of the invoice in question. The Respondent accepts the evidence of Mrs S in that he admits taking four months to forward the invoice in question. By doing so, the Committee finds that the Respondent failed to deal with the invoice without undue delay.

 

54.     The Committee therefore finds the facts alleged proved. The Committee finds that the Respondent acted in breach of Standard 6 of the 2010 Code.

 

Allegation 10:

 

55.     The Committee finds the facts proved for the following reasons.

 

56.     It is agreed between the parties that the date of the invoice referred to in allegation 9(a) had been redacted. The original document was dated 29 October 2009. It is the Respondent’s position that invoices from consultants are normally issued directly to the client and he would receive a copy. He stated that in relation to the invoice in question, he was unaware that the invoice had been sent to him only. He said that when he realised this, he forwarded the invoice to the Complainants.  He said that he redacted the date without any intention of misleading or deceiving the Complainants.

 

57.     In his evidence, the Respondent was unable to explain why he had redacted the date of the invoice. He accepted that he was embarrassed at the delay in sending the invoice to the Complainants but that he did not intend to mislead or deceive them. He stated that if he had wanted to be dishonest, he would not have sent the original invoice out with the ability to be able to see the date under the crossing out. He would have sent a copy. The fact that the original date could be seen under the ink if held up to the light, he submitted, was evidence that he had not been dishonest. All that he had successfully managed to do by crossing out the date was to draw attention to it.

 

58.     In his letter to the Board dated 20 November 2014, he states:

 

The alteration to the date (the date was blanked out) was intended to be very clear and there was no intent to mislead my client”.

 

59.     The Committee finds these explanations implausible. The only explanation for redacting the date was to prevent the Complainants seeing the original date. Whether through embarrassment or not, the only conclusion that can be drawn from the Respondent’s actions is that he wished to conceal the date from them. Had he not wished to do so, there would be no need to redact it.

 

60.     The issue for this Committee to consider is whether the Respondent’s act was misleading or dishonest. A statement is misleading if it is deceptive or intended to mislead. By redacting the date, the intention could only have been to ensure that the Complainants would be prevented from knowing the true date of the invoice and would not therefore believe that the invoice was four months old.

 

61.     In considering the question of dishonesty, the panel has borne in mind the test in Twinsectra v Yardley, considered in the light of the case of Beata Kirschner v General Dental Council [2015] EWHC 1377 (Admin) in that the respondent’s honesty should be judged by the standards of ordinary and honest members of the Architects profession. The Committee has asked itself the following two questions:

 

1.         Was the Respondent dishonest by the ordinary standards of reasonable and honest members of the Architect’s profession? In this regard, the panel must form its own judgment on what those standards are.

2.         Did the Respondent, or should he have known that what he was doing would be regarded as dishonest by those standards?

 

62.     In deciding the second question, the Panel must consider his state of mind at the time. If after taking into account all of the evidence, the Panel is satisfied that the answer to both of those questions is yes, then the element of dishonesty is proved. If the Panel is not so satisfied, the element of dishonesty is not proved.

 

63.     The Committee is satisfied that his conduct in redacting the date, to conceal the contents of the document, would be regarded as dishonest by the standards of reasonable and honest people. In deliberately concealing the date, the Committee is also satisfied that he was aware that what he was doing would be regarded as dishonest by those standards. Whether in an attempt to cover up his own embarrassment or not, the only rational purpose for the redaction can be to prevent the Complainants knowing the true date. By doing so, the Committee is satisfied that the Respondent knew that what he was doing, was dishonest.

 

64.     The Committee therefore finds that by acting as alleged, his actions were misleading and dishonest.

 

65.     By reason of those failures, the Committee finds that the Respondent acted in breach of Standard 1 of the Code.

 

Allegation 11:

 

66.     The Committee finds the facts proved for the following reasons.

 

67.     The Committee has had sight of an email dated 30 April 2012 from Mrs S to the Respondent. This email followed a succession of emails from her to the Respondent chasing up how the project was progressing. The email states:

 

I trust you have now had time to work out an action plan with A… and S… based on our discussion about preparing the ground sooner rather than later with a view to progressing the build in due course”.

 

68.     Mrs S stated in evidence that whilst she was uncertain as to whether a formal document would be needed, she was clear that she needed to know how the job would progress and what the timeline and costs involved would be. Whilst she accepted that this was not the first request she had made for an action plan to be drawn up, the Committee is satisfied that this “chaser” email in itself, amounts to a request, with which, as project manager, the Respondent failed to comply.

 

69.     The Committee therefore finds the facts alleged proved. The Committee finds that the Respondent acted in breach of standard 6 of the 2010 Code

 

Allegation 12:

 

70.     In light of the Respondent’s admission, the Committee finds the facts proved. The Respondent accepted in his evidence that he did not ensure that the building work started in 2012 as alleged and that he should have done so. The Committee therefore finds the facts alleged proved. The Committee finds that the Respondent acted in breach of Standard 6 of the 2010 Code.

 

Allegation 13

 

71.     The Committee finds the allegation proved for the following reasons:

 

 

 

Allegation (a)

 

72.     In light of the Respondent’s admission, the Committee finds the facts proved.

 

73.     On 6 February and 17 June 2013, the Complainants wrote to the
Respondent asking him to send through all the paperwork on their project and to outline his complaints procedure. The Respondent acknowledged receipt of the letter of 6 February on 14 February, but failed to outline his complaints procedure. Whilst recognising that the burden is on the Board to prove their case, by the Complainants having requested details of the Respondent’s complaints procedure and not having been given details of the same, the Committee is satisfied that the Respondent did not have such a procedure.

 

74.     Standard 10 of the 2010 Code states that architects should deal with complaints or disputes appropriately and that:

 

1.              You are expected to have a written procedure for prompt and courteous handling of complaints which will be in accordance with the Code and provide this to clients. This should include the name of the architect who will respond to complaints.

 

75.     In the circumstances, the Committee finds the Respondent has breached Standard 10 of the 2010 Code.

 

Allegation (b)

 

76.     In light of the Respondent’s admission, the Committee finds the facts proved.

 

77.     It is clear from the contents of the letter dated 6 February 2013, that the letter is a letter of complaint. Its heading refers to “Outstanding Issues” and asks the Respondent to “clearly outline…..your timetable for addressing this complaint”. The evidence before the Committee is that he did not do so.

 

78.     The Respondent accepts that he could have handled the complaint in a more considered and effective manner.

 

79.     Standard 10 of the 2010 Code states that architects should deal with complaints or disputes appropriately and that:

 

2.              You are expected to have a written procedure for prompt and courteous handling of complaints which will be in accordance with the Code and provide this to clients. This should include the name of the architect who will respond to complaints.

3.              Complaints should be handled courteously and promptly at every stage; and as far as practicable in accordance with the following time scales:

a.        an acknowledgement within 10 working days from the receipt of a complaint; and

b.        a response addressing the issues raised in the initial letter of complaint within 30 working days from its receipt.

 

80.     The Committee finds that by failing to respond within the required timescale, the Respondent has acted in breach of Standard 10 of the 2010 Code.

 

Allegation (c)

 

81.     In light of the Respondent’s admission, the Committee finds the facts proved.

 

82.     The Committee notes that in their June letter, the Complainants made explicit reference to Standard 10 of the 2010 Code. The Respondent replied to the June letter asking the Complainants to set out their complaint, saying that he would respond within 21 days. The Complainants sent the Respondent their complaint in a letter dated 3 July 2013, requesting an acknowledgement / response in accordance with the timescales set out in the 2010 Code. The Respondent by letter dated 21 August 2013, some working 35 days after their original letter of complaint. Whilst not a substantial time after the timescales prescribed by the Code, the Committee finds that by failing to respond within the required timescale, the Respondent has acted in breach of Standard 10 of the 2010 Code.

 

83.     Having found the allegations proved and having determined that Mr Hadlington has breached Standards 11 of the 2002 Code and standards 1, 6 and 10 of the 2010 Code, the Committee went on to consider whether the Respondent’s conduct amounts to unacceptable professional conduct. This is defined as conduct which falls short of the standard required of a registered person. In reaching its finding, the Committee has carefully considered all the evidence presented to it, all submissions made and has accepted the advice from the Clerk. The Committee recognises that not every shortcoming on the part of an architect, nor failure to comply with the provisions of the Code, will necessarily give rise to disciplinary proceedings. However, a failure to follow the guidance of the Code, whether in one’s professional or private life, is a factor that will be taken into account should it be necessary to examine the conduct or competence of an architect.

 

84.     The Committee notes that to the extent that the Respondent has admitted the facts alleged against him, he admits that his conduct amounts to UPC. The Committee has nevertheless reminded itself that it is a matter for the Committee’s own judgment to reach such a conclusion.

 

85.     The Committee has considered the authority of Spencer v General Osteopathic Council [2012] EWHC 3147 (Admin)It has borne in mind in reaching its decision that for a finding of unacceptable professional conduct to be made, “a degree of moral blameworthiness on the part of the registrant likely to convey a degree of opprobrium to the ordinary intelligent citizen” was required. Any failing should be serious. The Committee accepts that “mere negligence does not constitute misconduct”  and that “a single negligent act or omission is less likely to cross the threshold of misconduct than multiple acts or omissions….a single instance of negligent treatment unless very serious indeed, would be unlikely to constitute deficient professional performance”.

 

86.     Any person who retains an architect should be informed about the scope of the work that will be done by the architect, the fee or method of calculating it for which they will be liable, what they will be responsible for and other important matters. This information is of crucial importance to the parties, so that in advance of the engagement of the architect the client knows and agrees to these matters. Setting out compliant terms of engagement identifies each parties responsibilities and obligations and ensures certainty for both parties. These are core obligations of an architect.

 

87.     Similarly, the Committee has made numerous findings against the Respondent regarding breaches of his obligations to progress the project, to respond to correspondence, to submit invoices and other documentation to the Complainants in a timely manner and to answer complaints. His failings in this regard are serious and widespread and amount, in the Committee’s view, to conduct falling substantially below the standard expected of a registered Architect.

 

88.     The Committee has also made a finding that the Respondent’s actions as set out in allegation 10 were misleading and dishonest. Honesty is a core value of any professional and any failing in this regard amounts to conduct that falls seriously short of the standard expected of a registered Architect.

 

89.     The facts found proved and corresponding breaches of the Code, both individually and collectively, are serious and adversely impact both on the reputation of the Architect and the profession generally. As such, the Committee finds that the Respondent’s conduct does amount to unacceptable professional conduct.

 

90.     The Respondent addressed the Committee in mitigation.

 

91.     The Committee then considered whether to impose a sanction, and if so, which one. The Committee has had 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 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 sanction is not to be punitive although it may have a punitive effect. It has taken into account the respondent’s interests, the indicative sanctions guidance and the need to act proportionately. It has taken into account any aggravating and mitigating factors in this case. The Committee has exercised its own independent judgement.

 

92.     Having heard submissions from the respondent, the Committee has identified the following mitigating factors:

 

·         that the Respondent has no adverse regulatory history in his career of over 25 years;

·         he has fully engaged in the regulatory process which he has found traumatic and not one to be repeated;

·         he made a number of admissions at the start of this hearing;

·         he has expressed remorse and apologised to the Complainants for his failings;

·         he has provided a number of testimonials attesting to his good character and professionalism (although the Committee notes that none of the referees state that they are aware of the facts giving rise to the Committee’s findings);

·         he says that he has taken remedial steps which is demonstrative of insight on his part, namely formulating new compliant terms and conditions (although the Committee has not had sight of these); ensuring that he makes records of all calls, manages complaints more effectively and an appreciation of improved communication;

·         that the respondent’s failings did not result in any personal gain for him, financial or otherwise;

·         his dishonesty was not motivated by financial gain.

 

93.     The Committee has borne in mind that the Respondent has said that he had health issues from September 2012 for about three months. However, the Committee notes that the Respondent’s failings started well before this time, and continued afterwards and that he was working on other projects during his period of illness. The Committee has also borne in mind that at the relevant time, the Respondent felt under great pressure to fulfil all his work obligations. However, this does not absolve him of his professional obligations for each and every project on which he was working.

 

94.     The Committee has identified the following aggravating factors:

 

·         whilst it may have been an isolated project that failed, the failings identified in this case were serious, widespread and continued over a lengthy period of time;

·         the Respondent acted dishonestly, although the Committee considers that dishonesty to be at the lower end of the spectrum given that it was isolated, crude and not motivated by a financial gain for the respondent. However, dishonesty to conceal an Architect’s failing must be regarded as a serious matter.

 

95.     The Committee notes that the matters found proved are serious to the extent that Mr Hadlington’s failings diminish both his reputation, and that of the profession generally. The Committee is mindful of its role to protect the public and to declare and uphold proper standards of conduct and behaviour. Quite apart from the numerous failings found proven in this case, dishonesty is always a serious matter and breaches the most fundamental obligations of a professional. The Committee therefore concluded that the Respondent’s conduct was sufficiently serious for it to require the imposition of a sanction and has considered them in ascending order of severity.

 

96.     The Committee first considered whether to impose a reprimand. Having considered the indicative sanctions guidance and the mitigating and aggravating factors detailed above, the Committee considered that such a sanction is neither appropriate nor proportionate given the seriousness of the failings found proved.

 

97.     The Committee then considered whether to impose a penalty order and considered that this was also an inappropriate sanction to impose for the same reasons.

 

98.     The Committee then considered whether to impose a suspension order. The Committee has borne in mind the implications for the Respondent were such a sanction imposed. The Committee considers the level of dishonesty found proved to be at the lower end of the scale. However, taken both on its own and in conjunction with the other failings found proved, the Committee considers that such a sanction is appropriate and proportionate to meet the public interest in declaring and upholding acceptable standards of conduct and to uphold the reputation of the profession. The Committee therefore imposes a suspension order for 12 months. Such a period is appropriate given the nature and seriousness of the unacceptable professional conduct found proved.

 

99.     The Committee considered whether to order erasure, but considered, taking into account all the circumstances, that such a sanction would be disproportionate given the suitability of a suspension order.

 

100.  That concludes this determination.

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