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Ms Mary Tadros

THE ARCHITECTS REGISTRATION BOARD

PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT COMMITTEE

In the matter of

Ms Mary Tadros (066457J)

held on

7 April 2016

at

Architects Registration Board

8 Weymouth Street

London

W1W 5BU

—————–

Present:

Mr Julian Weinberg (Chair)

Mr Stephen Neale (PCC Lay Member)

Ms Judy Carr (PCC Architect Member)

Ms Nicola Hill (Clerk to the PCC)

—————–

Mr Jonathan Goodwin appeared on behalf of the Board

Ms Tadros attended by telephone

 

1.      In this case, the Board is represented by Mr Jonathan Goodwin. Ms Tadros has attended this hearing by telephone, but is not represented. Ms Tadros faces a charge of unacceptable professional conduct based on two allegations in that she:

 

Allegation 1.1: Failed to provide evidence to the Architects Registration Board (“ARB”) of adequate and appropriate Professional Indemnity Insurance (“PII”) or

 

Allegation 1.2: Failed to maintain adequate and appropriate PII

 

and that by doing so, the respondent acted in breach of Standards 8.1 and 8.4 of the Architects Code: Standards of Conduct and Practice 2010 (“the Code”);

 

2.      This case arises out of a complaint made to ARB which is unrelated to the matter before the committee.

 

3.      As a result, the ARB entered into correspondence with the respondent regarding PII. It is alleged that the respondent was unable to provide evidence of PII and that she had failed to maintain adequate insurance cover.

 

4.      The respondent denied the allegations.

 

5.      In reaching its decisions, the Committee has carefully considered the written evidence presented to it in the Report of the Board’s Solicitor, the 40 pages of documents exhibited to it which includes the respondent’s written response to the allegations. The ARB does not rely on any live evidence but solely on the correspondence passing between it and the respondent together with the documentary evidence contained in the bundle before the committee attached to the Board’s solicitor’s report. The respondent gave live evidence by phone.

 

6.      The committee has accepted the legal advice given by the clerk. It has had regard to the fact that, in reaching its findings of fact, the burden of proof is on the Board, and that the civil standard applies, namely proof on the balance of probabilities. Whether any of the allegations which may be found proved amount to unacceptable professional conduct (“UPC”) is a matter for the committee’s independent professional judgment, to which no burden of proof applies.

 

7.      The committee makes the following finding of facts:

 

Allegation 1:

 

8.      The committee finds the facts proved for the following reason:

 

9.      The committee has had regard to the following chronology of events as borne out by the documentary evidence before it:

 

·           28 April 2015: ARB wrote to the respondent requesting evidence of her PII;

·           29 April: the respondent emailed the ARB stating that she wanted to resign;

·           30 April: the ARB emailed the respondent stating that that could not be done while allegations against them are outstanding;

·           30 April: the respondent emailed the ARB but made no reference to PII;

·           1 May: the respondent emailed the ARB with an up to date address;

·           5 May 2015: the ARB wrote to the respondent at her new address requesting proof of her PII cover;

·           30 July: the ARB wrote to the respondent making a further request for evidence of PII cover;

·           30 July: the respondent emailed the ARB attaching a copy of her “public liability insurance” cover, as opposed to PII cover for her professional work;

·           3 August: the respondent sent the ARB a copy PII schedule which she stated, “covered all my professional engagements”. The schedule referred to AW UK Ltd with a policy starting date of 26 January 2013;

·           4 August: the ARB wrote to the respondent pointing out that the cover did not seem to relate to the respondent in her personal capacity. On the same day, the respondent emailed ARB stating that the insurance did cover her as a professional;

·           5 August: the ARB requested from the respondent a letter of comfort confirming that she was covered by the policy;

·           6 August: the respondent emailed the ARB stating that she was requesting this;

·               3 September: ARB chases the respondent for a response. The respondent replied the same day stating that she had been sent the schedule but that she had lost it. She stated that she had requested another copy. Later that day, she emailed the ARB a copy of the schedule. The schedule was, in fact, an insurance proposal                   completed for and on behalf of AW UK Ltd;

·           4 September: ARB requested a confirmation from AW UK Ltd’s insurer that the respondent was covered in her personal capacity. The respondent emailed ARB the same day but again, made no reference to the PII issue;

·           19 October: ARB chased the respondent who replied the same day stating that she would not be able to answer its queries until February 2016;

·           20 October: ARB emailed the respondent stating that such a long extension of time was not appropriate;

·           later that day, the respondent emailed ARB, but did not address the PII issue.

 

10.  Having considered the lengthy chronology and the evidence from the respondent, the committee has concluded that, having been given numerous opportunities to provide evidence of her personal PII cover, she has failed to do so. Such documentation as the respondent did provide, supposedly to confirm that such cover was in place, was not evidence of adequate and appropriate PII cover, but was a proposal form dating back to 2011 in the name of AW UK Ltd. In response to questions put to her in cross examination, the respondent accepted that the work she undertook which is the subject of the matter before the committee, related to the preparation of survey drawings, which the respondent accepted amounted to architectural work. This work, she conceded, was undertaken in her capacity as a sole trader and not on behalf of AW UK Ltd and that she did not have PII cover in place for such work. She did however state that should the commission have gone further, she would have ensured that PII cover was in place.

 

11.  Standard 8 of the Code states that architects must have appropriate insurance arrangements:

 

1      You are expected to have adequate and appropriate insurance cover for you, your practice and your employees. You should ensure that your insurance is adequate to meet a claim, whenever it is made. You are expected to maintain a minimum level of cover, including run-off cover, in accordance with the Board’s guidance.

2      ………

3      ………

4      You are expected to provide evidence that you have met the standards expected of this Standard in such form as the Board may require.

 

12.  Taken together with the respondent’s admission, it is a proper inference to draw, on the balance of probabilities, that she had failed to maintain adequate and appropriate insurance cover. Had cover been put in place, no doubt evidence of it would have been made available to the committee. In the circumstances, the committee finds that by acting as alleged, the respondent failed to maintain adequate and appropriate PII cover. Having made that finding, being the more serious of the allegations made, the committee has not gone on to make a finding in respect of the alternative failure alleged at allegation 1.1. In the circumstances, the committee considers that the respondent acted in breach of standard 8.1 of the Code.

 

13.  Having found allegation 1.2 proved, the committee went on to consider whether the respondent’s conduct amounts to UPC. 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 or 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. As stated above, whether the respondent’s conduct amounts to UPC is a matter for the committee’s independent professional judgment.

 

14.  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”. The case of Shaw v General Osteopathic Council [2015] EWHC 2721 (Admin) confirms this approach that any shortcoming on behalf of a respondent should be serious.

 

15.  It is the committee’s finding that the facts found proved and corresponding breach of the Code, is serious. Failing to effect adequate PII cover puts both the architect and the client at risk in the event that a claim is successfully made against the architect. Members of the public should be able to expect that their architect has sufficient PII cover in place. Failure to do so severely compromises the reputation of both the architect personally but also that of the profession. Such a failing represents a standard of conduct falling substantially below the standard expected of a registered Architect.

 

16.  In all the circumstances and for the reasons set out above, the committee finds that the respondent’s conduct does amount to unacceptable professional conduct.

 

17.  Having heard from the respondent in mitigation, 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 and it has exercised its own independent judgement.

 

18.  The committee has identified the following mitigating factors:

 

·      that she has no adverse regulatory history;

·      she has engaged in the regulatory process, although the committee notes that many of her responses to entirely proper issues raised by the ARB were evasive and failed to meaningfully address ARB’s concerns.

 

19.  The committee has identified the following aggravating factors:

 

·      She has demonstrated little insight into her failings. The committee considers this to be as a consequence of the respondent failing to appreciate that she needed to obtain PII cover in respect of work undertaken by her in a personal capacity and that such cover needed to be in place at the time a claim is made, rather than just when the work was undertaken. She has not identified the risk posed both to clients, to herself and to the profession by failing to take out appropriate insurance cover. She has not taken any steps to subsequently arrange insurance cover. The committee attaches little weight to her assurance that, had the project proceeded further, she would have obtained PII cover because, had she identified the necessity for such cover to be taken out, she would have appreciated the need to secure it prior to providing architectural services. The committee’s view is further borne out by the fact that the respondent sent documents to the ARB purportedly demonstrating that she did in fact have appropriate insurance cover when the documents on the face of them clearly indicated that this was not the case. Even at today’s hearing, the respondent stated that she could not understand why what she had provided was inadequate and that she did not consider that she needed to provide anything further.

·      The respondent had ample opportunity to address the Board’s legitimate concerns regarding her PII cover, yet her correspondence with the Board was both evasive and unprofessional over a considerable period of time.

 

20.  Taking into account the aggravating and mitigating circumstances and looking at all the facts in the round, the committee is of the view that because of her lack of understanding, there remains a risk of the respondent continuing to practise uninsured with the risk to the public that that entails.

 

21.  The matters found proved are serious to the extent that Ms Tadros’ failings diminish both her reputation, and that of the profession generally and expose herself and clients to the risk of substantial financial loss. The committee is mindful of its role to declare and uphold proper standards of conduct and behaviour. The committee has reminded itself as to its findings regarding the seriousness of the matter found proved. Having done so, the committee 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.

 

22.  The Committee first considered whether to impose a reprimand. However, having considered the ISG and the factors detailed above, the committee considered that the nature of the UPC found proved was too serious for such a sanction to be considered appropriate or proportionate.

 

23.  The committee next considered whether to impose a penalty order and considered that, for the same reasons, such an order was neither proportionate nor proportionate.

 

24.  The committee then considered whether to impose a suspension order and concluded that this was the appropriate and proportionate sanction to impose. Such a sanction, in the committee’s view properly reflects the seriousness of the respondent’s failure as found proved, the risk to the public and reputational damage to the profession. The committee therefore imposes a suspension order for a period of two years.

 

25.  The committee considered whether to impose an erasure order but considered that notwithstanding the ongoing risk identified and the respondent’s limited insight, her conduct is capable of being rectified. The committee has also taken into account the nature of the work undertaken whilst uninsured. As a result, the committee considered that such a sanction would be disproportionate and punitive given the suitability of a suspension order.

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