Mr Peter Carroll
THE ARCHITECTS REGISTRATION BOARD
PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT COMMITTEE
In the matter of
Mr Peter Carroll (046246B)
Held on 15 and 23 December 2016
8 Weymouth Street
Ms Emma Boothroyd (Chair)
Mr David Kann (PCC Architect Member)
Mr Stephen Neale (PCC Lay Member)
Ms Fiona Barnett (Clerk)
Mr Jonathan Goodwin of Jonathan Goodwin Solicitor Advocate appeared on behalf of ARB.
Mr Carroll attended in person.
- The Board is represented by Mr Jonathan Goodwin. Mr Carroll has attended this hearing but is not legally represented. Mr Carroll faces a charge of unacceptable professional conduct (“UPC”) based on two allegations in that he:
- failed adequately, or at all, to ensure that the architectural work carried out by the practice was under the control and management of a registered architect;
- he failed adequately, or at all, to ensure that the Complainant was aware of the identity of the registered architect dealing with the project
and that by doing so, the respondent acted in breach of Standards 1.1,3.1, 3.3,3.4 and 4.1 of the Architects Code: Standards of Conduct and Practice 2010 (“the Code”).
- This case arises out of a complaint made by Mr RS (“the complainant”) in respect of the professional services carried out by the respondent’s practice CMI Consulting Limited (CMI). The Respondent is the managing director of CMI. The complainant had not directly engaged the services of the respondent, but had instructed Mr PM who is not a registered architect. Mr PM is described as a director of architecture and Mr RS believed him to be a registered architect.
- The background to the allegations is that the complainant and his wife are the owners of a freehold property by the name of W……. In 2012 they had dealings with Mr PM who was a friend of theirs to design remodelling works and in due course act on their behalf in the supervision of construction works. The complainant states that although Mr PM was a friend, he and his wife made it clear that they wanted to instruct Mr PM’s company (CMI) and to have an arm’s length professional retainer.
- No formal terms of engagement were sent out and it is in dispute what sort of arrangement was agreed and what the responsibilities of CMI were in relation to the project. Mr PM continued to work on the project until a dispute arose. It is disputed by Mr Caroll that the practice, CMI, was instructed to deal with all of the work and he says that only a discrete piece of work came through the practice.
- The complainant wasn’t happy with the quality of the work carried out and in November 2013 he wrote a formal complaint to the respondent as managing director. It isn’t necessary to set out the nature of the alleged poor quality work for the purposes of this decision. The complaint was not resolved and proceedings were issued by the complainant which were eventually settled by CMI’s insurers without any findings by the court.
- The complainant complained to the Architects Registration Board in January 2016 following conclusion of the legal proceedings. He alleged, in summary, that he and his wife were misled about the fact that Mr PM was not a registered and qualified architect and that Mr PM’s work on their property wasn’t under the control or management of a registered architect. He said that this led to poor quality work which caused them considerable expense and upset.
- Mr Carroll admits allegation 1.2 that the complainant wasn’t made aware of the identity of the registered architect dealing with the project but denies allegation 1.1. It is further denied that if any factual allegations are found proved, such failings amount to UPC.
- In reaching its decisions, the Committee has carefully considered the live evidence of the complainant, Mr Seiger, the Boards Professional Standards Manager, Mr Simon Howard and the respondent together with the documentary evidence presented to it in the Report of the Board’s Solicitor and the 357 pages of documents exhibited to it. The respondent has also provided a defence document and statement. An email was produced on the day of the hearing and since there was no objection on behalf of the Board the Committee has taken it into account.
- 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 conduct alleged amounts to UPC is a matter for the Committee’s independent judgment to which no burden of proof applies.
Findings of fact:
- The Committee makes the following finding of facts. Mr Carroll was at the relevant time the managing director of CMI Consulting Limited. He was one of two registered architects at the practice but he was the more senior. Mr PM was the individual dealing with the complainant’s project and he was not a registered architect.
- On 29 February 2012 the complainants wrote to Mr PM to instruct him to undertake work for them. Mr PM replied to the complainants by way of an email agreeing that detailed drawings needed to be prepared and the project managed. At the foot of the email Mr PM is described as a Director of CMI Consulting Limited and the footer of the email states the word “Architects” as well as other services offered by the practice. The Committee considers that the practice was instructed at this point and the work carried out by Mr PM before this had been as a favour and not on behalf of CMI. Mr PM was using his personal email address prior to this.
- In Mr Carroll’s first response to the Board following the complaint, at page 15, he stated, “I am not the principal of this company in relation to the provision of architectural services, whether in title or substance.” He goes on to state “..I was not responsible for this project, nor was I responsible at a higher level for management of the wider provision of architectural services at CMI Consulting Limited.”
- Mr Carroll elaborated further in his letter of 9 July 2016, “The whole business case for CMI is based on the premise that P…. M…. was fulfilling the role of principal at the time due to my semi retirement. I was away from the office for a significant period of time and as required by the ARB Code of Conduct it was arranged for someone else to take over conduct of the architectural department on a day to day basis. This was a CMIC Board decision and allowed me to hand over control of the architecture side of the business and ensure continuity of service which formed the cornerstone of my exit strategy.”
- Mr Carroll set out in his explanations that the project was discussed at weekly board meetings and he was aware of the project. He set out that he had robust quality assurance mechanisms within the practice at the time and said that Mr PM was very experienced and capable. He contended that there was no issue with how the project was progressing until the dispute arose and he had no need to be concerned about it.
- In evidence he gave further detail about his control and management of the project and explained that it was limited to the discrete work of producing drawings and discharging planning conditions. He said that he considered the project to have been closed following this in around August 2012 and no further meetings or discussions about the project took place. Mr Carroll said that no formal closure letter was sent and he didn’t check that the project was closed.
- The Committee considered whether the work had been within the control and management of Mr Carroll. The Committee took into account Mr Howard’s evidence that there is no definition of what amounts to control and management. However, the purpose of the legislation is to provide protection to the title architect and architects and ensure that whenever an unqualified person is working under the title a registered person has control and management of that work.
- The Committee did not consider that Mr Carroll did have appropriate control and management of the work undertaken by Mr PM on this project. It did not consider that a discussion at a weekly meeting was enough. Mr Carroll’s evidence was that the meeting was to discuss resources rather than being particularly focussed on the specifics of the project. The meeting was usually chaired by Mr PM and it appears to the Committee that Mr Carroll was entirely reliant on what he was told. Mr Carroll did not demonstrate to the Committee that he checked anything or took any pro-active steps to supervise and manage Mr PM’s work.
- The Committee took into account that Mr Carroll was planning to exit the business and was rarely there during this period. It took into account his letters to ARB which suggested that he did not consider he was the principal of the business and he was not in control and management of all the architectural work. The Committee concluded that it was more likely than not that at the relevant time Mr Carroll had handed over control of the work to Mr PM in the mistaken belief he was able to act as principal and took no more than a passing interest in the project at the board meetings when it was discussed.
- Mr Carroll said that the work undertaken by Mr PM following the discharge of conditions was done without the knowledge of the practice and wasn’t within the scope of works agreed. Mr Carroll was reluctant to say that he had been deceived by Mr PM but conceded that Mr PM wasn’t fully open with him about what he had been doing after the discharge of conditions in August 2012.
- The Committee considered the evidence. An interim certificate was produced on the 24 August 2012 signed by Mr PM on behalf of CMI consulting. This clearly demonstrates that Mr PM continued to be involved in a formal way. A further email dated 13 December 2012 is sent to Mr and Mrs S by Mr PM from the CMI email address and using the CMI email footer. The email refers to a meeting he has had with the builder and in the Committee’s view demonstrates that he continued to be actively involved in project managing this work. Mr Carroll conceded that he had no knowledge of this work. However, in the Committee’s opinion given that Mr PM carried out the work within the remit of the practice, it follows that Mr Carroll had responsibility and should have been in control and management of this part of the work.
For these reasons the Committee finds this allegation proved.
- Allegation 1.2
By reason of the respondent’s admission, the Committee finds the facts proved.
- The Committee also accepted Mr S’s evidence that Mr PM did not tell him or his wife that he was not a registered architect and he was “horrified” when he discovered the facts.
- By reason of the facts found proved, the Committee therefore finds that the respondent acted in breach of standard 3.4 of the Code.
- Having found allegations 1.1, and 1.2 proved, the Committee went on to consider whether the respondent’s conduct amounts to UPC. UPC is defined as conduct which falls short of the standard required of a registered person.
- In reaching its findings, 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 result in a finding of UPC. 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.
- The Committee has considered the authority of Spencer v General Osteopathic Council  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”.
- It is the Committee’s finding that the facts found proved, whilst relating to a single project, are serious failings. The Committee finds that, so far as the allegations found proved and the corresponding breaches of the Code are concerned, both individually and collectively, the respondent’s failings are serious and adversely impact both on the reputation of the architect and the profession generally. Such failings can quite properly be categorised as UPC.
- The Committee considered that Mr Carroll’s failure to exercise any effective control and management of the architectural work carried out by Mr PM strikes at the very cornerstone of the protection of the term architect. The Committee accepted the evidence of Mr Howard that it is necessary to have an architect in overall control and management of any work which is undertaken by a practice using the term “architect” or “architects”.
- The very purpose of the legislation and standard 3.4 is to prevent the situation experienced by Mr and Mrs S where they reasonably thought that they were instructing a qualified architect but in fact this was not the case. It is to ensure that when a person instructs a firm of architects, an architect will have overall control and management of their project. If an unqualified person is carrying out some or all of the work the client will be informed and told who is the architect in control.
- The Committee considered the failings by Mr Carroll to discharge his responsibilities under this standard were a serious lapse and fell below the standard expected of a registered architect. As such the Committee found that Mr Carroll’s conduct amounted to unacceptable professional conduct and therefore finds him guilty of the charge against him.
- The respondent then addressed the Committee in mitigation and highlighted that he was an experienced architect of over 40 years and he had never had a complaint made against him. He explained his mentoring role and the fact that he considered he was a good role model for future architects. He referred the Committee to the positive testimonials that had been submitted. He repeated his apology and regret for the upset experienced by Mr and Mrs S. He outlined to the Committee the corrective steps he had taken to address his failings and the fact that he had put his retirement plans on hold to continue to manage the business. He explained the steps the practice was taking to achieve RIBA Chartered status.
- Mr Carroll explained that the practice received no financial benefit from the work undertaken by Mr PM outside the agreed fee and he was badly let down by a trusted colleague who was working outside the company structure. He said that he had learned from this experience and had taken steps to ensure that it could not be repeated.
- 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, behaviour and competence. 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 Mr Carroll’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.
- Having taken into account the respondent’s submissions, the Committee has identified the following mitigating factors:
- the failing related to a single project and there was no additional financial benefit to the practice;
- he has fully engaged in the regulatory process;
- he made admissions in respect of allegation 1.2;
- he has expressed contrition for his failings, apologising for his conduct to the Board and to the complainant;
- he has stated that he has taken corrective action to address his failings, for example by ensuring all future projects are allocated to a registered architect;
- his testimonials confirm he is a well-respected and experienced architect.
- The Committee has identified the following aggravating factors:
- his failings had a serious effect on the complainant.
- The Committee has noted that the respondent has no previous adverse finding recorded against him
- Taking all these factors into account, the Committee considers the risk of repetition of his failings to be very low.
- The Committee notes that the extent and breadth of the matters found proved are serious to the extent that Mr Carroll’s failings diminish both his reputation, and that of the profession generally. The Committee therefore concluded that the respondent’s conduct was sufficiently serious for it to require the imposition of a sanction and that taking no action was not appropriate.
- The Committee then went on to consider whether to impose a reprimand. The Committee noted that Mr Carroll had demonstrated insight and in the Committee’s view had expressed genuine remorse and regret. Mr Carroll has a long previously unblemished career and the Committee were impressed with the testimonials provided on his behalf. The Committee took into account that Mr Carroll had taken corrective action at the practice and this was at a significant cost to his own personal plans.
- The Committee balanced this with the upset caused to the complainant and the need to ensure that the public interest and the reputation of the profession were upheld. In all the circumstances the Committee considered that a reprimand was the appropriate and proportionate sanction.
- The Committee considered in this case that a penalty order was not warranted and would be disproportionate in the circumstances.
- That concludes this determination.