Ms Roxanne Walters
THE ARCHITECTS REGISTRATION BOARD
PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT COMMITTEE
In the matter of
Ms Roxanne Walters (078893G)
Held on 5 October 2017
Chartered Institute of Arbitrators
12 Bloomsbury Square
12-13 February 2017, 16 March 2018 & 30 March 2018
Architects Registration Board
8 Weymouth Street
Mr Julian Weinberg (Chair)
Mr David Kann (PCC Architect Member)
Mr Martin Pike (PCC Lay Member)
Ms Fiona Barnett (Clerk)
Mr Jonathan Goodwin of Jonathan Goodwin Solicitor Advocate appeared on behalf of the Architects Registration Board (“ARB”).
Ms Walters has attended this hearing and is legally represented by Mr Tackaberry QC and Ms Gough.
The sanction imposed is a reprimand.
Charge and allegations:
1. In this case, the Board is represented by Mr Jonathan Goodwin. Ms Walters has attended this hearing and is legally represented by Mr Tackaberry QC and Ms Gough. Ms Walters faces a charge of unacceptable professional conduct (“UPC”) based on three allegations in relation to breaches of standards 1, and 11 of the Architects Code: Standards of Conduct and Practice 2010 (“the Code”) in that:
1.1. she made representations which were inaccurate, misleading and untrue in relation to her status as a registered architect;
1.2 she facilitated, permitted or acquiesced in an attempt to raise money to fund legal advice about completing her architectural training, when she was already registered with the Architects Registration Board (“ARB”);
1.3 she failed to co-operate adequately or at all, with the ARB’s investigation in that she failed to respond to the ARB’s correspondence.
Dishonesty is alleged in respect of allegations 1.1 and 1.2.
2. Following an application for “Entry to the Register” on 8 February 2012, the Respondent was subsequently registered with the ARB and she was advised of the same by the ARB later that month.
3. In February 2016, evidence was obtained from a website called “help me be the best architect I can be!”, in which it is alleged that the Respondent sought to raise £4000 “to get the legal advice I need about completing my training” and she referred to “doing parts 1 and 2 of the architecture course”. She allegedly stated that she was looking forward to “getting some quality practical experience under my belt. To do this, I need legal advice about the best way to get the practical experience I need”.
4. It is alleged that the Respondent failed to make reference to Part 3 of her exams. It is therefore alleged that the implication was that the Respondent required funding to complete her education and qualification as an architect even though the Respondent completed her Part 3 exams on 10 November 2011 and had been registered as an architect since February 2012.
5. On a further crowd funding website, “Educating Beyond Borders we’re crowd funding to make Roxanne an architect!”, it is alleged that on 30 January 2016, it stated “Now all she needs is enough time to do her placement and finish her studies. Unfortunately, the Home Office is now querying the amount of time she has been in the UK; as we continue to negotiate her being given enough time. That’s why she needs to instruct the barrister”.
6. On a further website, wwwgenerosity.com/education-fundraising, it said: “Roxanne is still shut out from obtaining her full professional qualification after all this time”.
7. The ARB then sent several letters and emails to the Respondent between March 2016 until May 2017 seeking clarification regarding her registered status and crowd funding pages, but it is alleged that the Respondent failed to reply.
8. The Respondent admits that she failed to respond to the ARB’s correspondence, but otherwise denies the allegations and that her conduct amounts to UPC.
Submissions of no case to answer:
9. At the conclusion of the Board’s case, Mr Tackaberry made an application of no case to answer in respect of allegations 1.1 and 1.2 pursuant to Rule 16c of the Professional Conduct Committee Rules (“the Rules”). No application was made in respect of allegation 1.3.
10. Mr Tackaberry stated that the Respondent had an impressive record in respect of her academic courses. She had leave to remain in the UK until March 2012. Whilst he accepted that as a matter of fact, the Respondent was on the Architect’s register in 2012, in reality, he submitted, further training was required as evidenced by a letter dated 22 March 2012 from Mr Robertson, the Director of Professional Practice at the Architectural Association, where the Respondent had taken her Part 3 exam, to the Secretary of State making reference to additional experience that was an “essential part of the practice of an architect”. In the light of the Respondent being given advice that further training was required, the Respondent could not be considered as having acted dishonestly. The Board, he submitted, had not adduced any evidence that countered her defence raised by the Respondent in her response. In the absence of a finding of dishonesty, there was no basis for finding the facts of allegations 1.1 and 1.2 proved.
11. Mr Goodwin opposed the application. He submitted that, given the evidence of Mr Howard and the documentation before the Committee, there was ample evidence upon which the Committee could find the facts of allegations 1.1 and 1.2 proved. The online pages adduced, he submitted, created a false impression that the Respondent was not an architect, when in fact she had previously been registered. He reminded the Committee that it should only take into account the Board’s case at this stage and not the defence case.
12. In considering these submissions, the Committee heard and accepted the advice of the Clerk. It has applied to the regulatory nature of these proceedings, the test as set out in the case of Galbraith, namely:
13. (1) If there is no evidence that the crime alleged has been committed by the defendant, there is no difficulty. The judge will of course stop the case. (2) The difficulty arises where there is some evidence but it is of a tenuous character, for example because of inherent weakness or vagueness or because it is inconsistent with other evidence. (a) Where the judge comes to the conclusion that the prosecution evidence, taken at its highest, is such that a jury properly directed could not properly convict upon it, it is his duty, upon a submission being made, to stop the case. (b) Where however the prosecution evidence is such that its strength or weakness depends on the view to be taken of a witness’s reliability or other matters which are generally speaking within the province of the jury and where on one possible view of the facts there is evidence upon which a jury could properly come to the conclusion that the defendant is guilty, then the judge should allow the matter to be tried by the jury…. There will of course, as always in this branch of the law, be borderline cases. They can safely be left to the discretion of the judge.
14. The documentation before the Committee indicates (and it is not disputed) that the Respondent passed her part 3 exams on 10 November 2011. She was registered as an architect, effective from 17 February 2012.
15. The Committee notes the following from the online entry of 30 January 2016:
• It refers to crowdfunding “to make Roxanne an architect”;
• Makes repeated reference to her completing her studies;
• Refers to her achievements on the architecture course “before she was forced to stop”;
• Refers to her being “shut out from obtaining her full professional qualification after all this time”.
16. The Committee notes the following from the online posting of 5 February 2016:
• It refers to a request to “make me an architect”;
• Refers to ongoing studies;
• Makes reference to parts 1 and 2 of her course, but not part 3 which she had already passed;
• The page states that it is “Posted by Roxanne”. The posting displays an image of the Respondent and gives her full name at the foot of the page.
17. In the light of the above and given that the Respondent was registered as an architect in February 2012, the Committee finds that there is sufficient evidence upon which a Committee could find that the Respondent made representations that were inaccurate, misleading and untrue in relation to her status as a registered architect given that the above statements suggest that the Respondent was not a fully qualified and registered architect. In the circumstances the Committee finds that there is sufficient evidence which, if accepted, could enable a properly directed Committee to find the facts proved. As such, the Committee finds that there is a case to answer in respect of allegation 1.1.
18. In the event that such a finding could be made, the Committee finds that there is therefore sufficient evidence before it to find that those representations were made dishonestly. Such a finding could only be made after the Respondent’s case has been presented. As such, the Committee finds that there is a case to answer in respect of the dishonesty element of allegation 1.1.
19. Given the reasons for its finding that there is a case to answer in respect of allegation 1.1, the Committee finds that there is sufficient evidence which, if accepted, could enable a properly directed Committee to find the facts of allegation 1.2 proved. Any consideration as to whether the postings were made by the Respondent or whether she facilitated, permitted or acquiesced to them, can only be determined after hearing any defence case. As such, the Committee finds that there is a case to answer in respect of allegation 1.2.
20. In the event that such a finding could be made, the Committee finds that there is therefore sufficient evidence before it to find that her behaviour as alleged in allegation 1.2, was made dishonestly. Such a finding could only be made after the Respondent’s case has been presented. As such, the Committee finds that there is a case to answer in respect of the dishonesty element of allegation 1.2.
Findings of Fact:
21. In reaching its decisions, the Committee has carefully considered the live evidence of Mr Howard, Head of Professional Standards at the ARB, together with the documentary evidence presented to it in the Report of the Board’s Solicitor and the 37 pages of documents exhibited to it. The Respondent gave live evidence and the Committee has also had sight of her bundle which includes the Respondent’s defence statement, a copy decision of the First Tier Immigration and Asylum Tribunal dated 24 November 2012, miscellaneous correspondence and a number of references attesting to the Respondent’s honesty.
22. The Respondent denies the factual allegations and therefore that her conduct amounts to UPC. 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.
23. Having heard the evidence and the parties’ submissions, the Committee makes the following findings of facts:
24. Allegation 1.1:
The Committee finds the facts proved for the following reasons:
The Committee firstly considered whether the Respondent made the representations alleged, and if so, whether those representations were inaccurate, misleading and untrue.
Educating Beyond Borders (“EBB”) web page dated 30 January 2016:
The Respondent stated in evidence that whilst she did not draft the entirety of the document, she accepted that she had drafted parts of it. Its contents had been prepared in conjunction with Mr R. In her written witness statement, she accepted that “I developed the post with [Mr R], and uploaded it to test its functionality and presentation”. The web page refers to the website for Associated Media Limited, a company of which she was a director. She stated in evidence that the web page did not in fact, go live. The Committee however accepts the evidence of Mr Howard that he accessed the web page in question and it is therefore satisfied that the web page was viewable by members of the public. In the circumstances, the Committee finds that the Respondent did make representations in that web page.
That web page refers to:
• “support for Roxanne to finish her studies”;
• “Roxanne’s quest to finish her studies”;
• Reference to her being “blocked from finishing” her studies;
• A request to “Let’s make Roxanne an architect”.
As a matter of fact, for the reasons stated earlier in this decision, the Respondent was a registered Architect. In the circumstances, the Committee finds that this web page is misleading in that it gives the wrong idea or impression that the Respondent was not a qualified architect. Such a representation is also inaccurate and untrue.
Web page dated 5 February 2016 (“the 5 February page”):
It is the Respondent’s evidence that this web page was not posted by her but that it is a “fake” page, created by Mr R. As such, she was not responsible for the representations contained in that page.
The Committee has weighed up the conflicting evidence in respect as to who was the author of the web page. In reaching that decision, the Committee has borne in mind the following:
• The page is written in the first person;
• It includes an image of her;
• It seeks a request to “Make me an architect”;
• It states: “I’ve wanted to be an architect since I was 11 years old”, wording that she repeated in evidence;
• It refers to the need to gain practical experience and the need to get legal advice in order to be able to do this, which she accepts she needed, and which is the essence of her defence;
• The label at the foot of the web page again refers to her company, Associated Media Limited;
• In her defence document, she provides a detailed response to specific wording in that web page and makes no reference to the web page being fake, which is wholly inconsistent with her live evidence. This inconsistency materially undermines the credibility of her evidence.
25. As against these factors, the Committee has considered the credibility of her assertion that the web page was not created by her. Apart from the inconsistency referred to at point 7 above, the Committee has considered the inherent plausibility of her explanation given in her live evidence. She stated that, having rejected unwanted sexual advances by Mr R, and having reported his behaviour to the police some days earlier, he has sought revenge by posting the web page. Albeit that its contents support her efforts to become an architect and purport to encourage funding for legal advice, it only makes reference to Parts 1 and 2 of the architecture course, and not Part 3. By omitting reference to her Part 3 exams, she submitted, he planned to damage her career by giving a false impression that she had not passed her Part 3 exams when she had, which, speculatively, might lead to regulatory action being taken by her regulator, which is what has happened. There was no corroborating evidence before the Committee to support the Respondent’s assertion.
26. The Committee considers this explanation to be contrived and wholly implausible, particularly when balanced with the evidence that suggests that the representations were made by her and the inherent unlikelihood that an individual seeking to harm her would post a web page that supports her efforts to become an architect. The Committee is therefore satisfied on the balance of probabilities, that the Respondent did make the relevant representations.
27. That web page refers to:
• The respondent being able to get “a licence to build”;
• Reference to “completing my training”;
• A statement that she “enjoyed doing Parts 1 and 2 of the architecture course and got top honours both times to boot!”
• A request to “give generously and let’s make an architect”.
28. There is no reference in that web page to the fact that she had completed and passed her Part 3 exams or the fact that she qualified as an architect and that she required post qualification experience. For the reasons stated earlier in this decision, the respondent was a registered Architect. In the circumstances, the Committee finds that this web page is misleading in that it gives the wrong idea or impression that the respondent was not a qualified architect. Such a representation is also inaccurate and untrue.
In the circumstances, the Committee finds the facts of allegation 1.1 proved.
29. Allegation 1.2:
The Committee finds the facts proved for the following reasons:
As stated earlier in this decision, it is not disputed that the Respondent was already registered with the ARB. Given that, the Committee firstly considered whether the Respondent attempted to raise money to fund legal advice about completing her architectural training. The Committee has borne in mind the evidence of Mr Howard that he was able to access the web pages in question. The Respondent stated that the links to be able to donate money were not active, and that no bank account details to donate to were provided. However, having accepted the evidence of Mr Howard, the Committee is satisfied that the web pages were visible to the public.
30. For the reasons given in respect of allegation 1.1 above, the Committee has found that the Respondent made the representations in question. Both the EBB page and the page of 5 February 2016 make specific reference to raising money to fund legal advice to complete her architectural training. Notwithstanding that it would not have been possible in practice to actually donate money through the web sites in question, the requests to raise money were visible to members of the public. As such, by posting the representations online, the Committee finds that the Respondent’s acts were more than merely preparatory, and as such, amount to the attempt as alleged.
31. The Committee has also borne in mind the contents of the website www.generosity.com/education-fundraising which has been exhibited. This states “We’re responding to Roxanne’s need to raise funds so a human rights barrister can urgently intervene in her case….Roxanne is still shut out from obtaining her full professional qualification after all this time….You can follow our story on http/associatedmedialimited…..”. The message of this web page accords with that of the EBB and the 5 February web pages, and invites the reader to follow the Respondent’s story on a web page linked to her company.
32. In the circumstances, the Committee finds that the Respondent facilitated, permitted and acquiesced in the attempt to raise money as alleged and therefore finds the facts of this allegation, proved.
33. Having done so, the Committee went on to consider whether, by acting as found proved, the Respondent acted dishonestly.
34. Standard 1 of the Code states:
“Honesty and Integrity
1.1 You are expected at all times to act with honesty and integrity and to avoid any actions or situations which are inconsistent with your professional obligations. This standard underpins the Code and will be taken to be required in any consideration of your conduct under any of the other standards.
1.2 You should not make any statement which is contrary to your professional opinion or which you know to be misleading, unfair to others or discreditable to the profession.
35. In considering whether the Respondent acted dishonestly, the Committee has applied the test for dishonesty as set out in Ivey v Genting Casinos (UK) Ltd t/a Crockfords  UKSC 67.
36. “When dishonesty is in question the fact-finding tribunal must first ascertain subjectively the actual state of the individual’s knowledge or belief as to the facts. The reasonableness or otherwise of his belief is a matter of evidence (often in practice determinative) going to whether he held the belief, but it is not an additional requirement that his belief must be reasonable; the question is whether it is genuinely held. When once his actual state of mind as to knowledge or belief as to facts is established, the question whether his conduct was honest or dishonest is to be determined by the fact-finder by applying the objective standards of ordinary decent people. There is no requirement that the defendant must appreciate that what he has done is, by those standards, dishonest.”
37. It is the Respondent’s position that she did not act dishonestly. It is her case that she believed that she had been granted a conditional pass for her Part 3 examination by her awarding body, the Architectural Association School of Architecture (“the Architectural Association”). It was her evidence that, following a meeting in November 2011 with two examiners, she had been told that she would be recommended for a fail of her Part 3 exam as she did not have the requisite training to justify passing the exam. She stated that she was specifically told that she was not “a safe pair of hands” and that even though she was a “commendable designer”, she had not undertaken sufficient practical experience and that further practical training was needed. However, at a subsequent meeting with Mr Robertson, the Director of Professional Practice at the Architectural Association, she states that he told her that in view of her overall academic achievement, she would be granted a conditional pass but that she should obtain further experience that she had been unable to gain pre-qualification. As such, the Respondent stated that, she believed that her passing of her Part 3 exams was conditional on securing further practical experience. As a result, she believed that even though she had technically, qualified, and could register as an architect, she required further training to be a “real” architect.
38. The Committee accepts the evidence of Mr Howard that there is no such thing as a “conditional” pass of the Part 3 exams. The exam is either passed or failed. However, in his letter to the Secretary of State dated 22 March 2012 in relation to the Respondent’s immigration status and ability to work in the UK, Mr Robertson wrote: “We have been pleased to pass Ms Walters at Part III based on her excellent record but in doing so we have recommended that she also now seek further employment in private practice in the UK in order to obtain appropriate experience in certain aspects of the profession forming an essential part of the practice of an architect that were not in fact available to her during her period of her pre-qualification practical training”, which Mr Robertson recognised was “an integral part of the qualification process”. Notwithstanding the immigration issues that overseas students may face, the Committee considers it quite extraordinary that an awarding body should pass any student for qualification knowing that they did not fulfil their pre-qualification requirements.
39. The Committee has also taken into account the findings of the hearing of the First Tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) dated 24 November 2012. In his written determination, the Judge stated: “In his evidence Mr Robertson asserted that the award of the Part 3 Certificate in Professional Practice and Practical Experience was conditional upon the appellant undergoing further supervised training with an architectural practice” and that she “required a further period of 18 months to address the outstanding requirements….”.
40. The Committee has also taken into account the references provided by the Respondent which, it is asserted, supports the fact that the Respondent lacks the propensity to act dishonestly. In doing so, the Committee attaches less weight to those references that pre-date the incidents in question and which were therefore written without knowledge of the allegations before this Committee.
41. In the circumstances, in applying the first limb of the Ivey test, the Committee accepts that, given what she had been told by Mr Robertson, the Respondent genuinely, albeit erroneously, believed that her passing of her Part 3 exams was conditional. Even though she could register as an architect, the Committee accepts that the Respondent genuinely believed that she could not be a “real” architect until she had completed her additional training. Given what she had been told by the Director of Professional Practice at her professional awarding body, the Committee finds that the Respondent’s actions would not objectively be judged as dishonest by the standards of ordinary decent people.
42. In respect of allegation 1.2, the Committee has already found that her representations in respect of allegation 1.1, suggesting that she was not an architect, were not made dishonestly for the reasons set out above. In the circumstances, the Committee finds that, in facilitating, permitting or acquiescing in an attempt to raise money to fund legal advice, the Respondent did so under the erroneous, but genuinely held belief that she was not a “real” architect, but needed legal advice to ensure she could work in the UK to complete her architectural training. Given that, the Committee finds that the Respondent’s actions would not objectively be judged as dishonest by the standards of ordinary decent people.
43. The Respondent should be in no doubt that the Committee considers that the representations made by the Respondent on the various web pages could unquestionably have been written more clearly to make it clear what the reality of her position was. However, the Committee accepts that the purpose of the various postings was to raise funds for legal advice to regularise her immigration status so she could undertake further training to satisfy the additional requirements that Mr Robertson had extraordinarily said apply in her case.
44. In the circumstances, the Committee does not find that the Respondent acted dishonestly and therefore it does not find that the Respondent acted in breach of standard 1 of the Code. Given what she was told, the Committee does not find that the Respondent made any statement which she knew to be misleading, unfair to others or discreditable to the profession.
45. Allegation 1.3:
The Committee finds the facts proved for the following reasons:
The ARB sent the following correspondence to the respondent to which no response was received:
• A letter dated 7 March 2016 seeking clarification about her registered status and crowd funding pages. The Respondent was asked to respond by 14 March 2016;
• A letter dated 1 April 2016 requesting a response by 15 April 2016;
• An email dated 12 January 2017 requesting a response by 26 January 2017;
• An email dated 16 February 2017 requesting a response by 23 February 2017.
46. In addition, the ARB wrote to the Respondent by letter and email on 5 May 2017 attaching a copy of the preliminary decision of the Investigations Panel giving her the opportunity to make written representations before a final decision was made. The Respondent did not respond to that letter, although, unlike the earlier correspondence referred to above, she was under no obligation to do so.
47. The Respondent in her defence documentation gave inconsistent explanations as to why she was unable to respond to the Board: she needed to obtain legal advice / representation and because of health reasons. However, there is no corroborating evidence before the Committee that the Respondent did suffer from the health condition (as opposed to suffering from symptoms that could be as a result of that health condition), or that it impeded on her ability to respond to the Board.
48. The Respondent accepts that she did not respond to the Board’s correspondence. In her witness statement she accepted that it was not a defence to the allegation that she had not been able to secure legal advice but that she felt “badly let down by the ARB and more than a little victimised by their behaviour towards me which I regard as unjust and unfair. The fact that they would seek to vilify me on the basis of a complaint from [Mr R]…did nothing to instil any confidence in me that if I responded, I would be treated fairly”.
49. However, in her live evidence, she gave an alternative explanation. She stated that her solicitor had corresponded some time two years previously with the Board regarding her training, but the Board had not responded. She was unable to produce any correspondence to support her assertions. Mr Howard, on behalf of the Board, stated, and the Committee accepts, that it received no such correspondence. In the light of the Board’s alleged failure to respond to her solicitor’s correspondence, the Respondent stated that she was unwilling to now respond to it.
50. In the light of her admitted failure to respond to the Board’s correspondence, the Committee finds the facts that the Respondent failed to respond adequately or at all to the ARB’s correspondence. The Committee therefore finds this allegation proved.
51. Standard 11 of the Code states:
“Co-operation with regulatory requirements and investigations
11.1 You are expected to co-operate fully and promptly with the Board, and within any specified timescale, if it asks you to provide information which it needs to carry out its statutory duties, including evidence that you are complying with these Standards.
52. In light of the Committee’s finding of fact, the Committee finds that the Respondent acted in breach of Standard 11 of the Code.
Finding on Unacceptable Professional Conduct:
53. Having found the allegations, but not dishonesty, 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.
54. 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 reminds itself that a finding of UPC is a matter for its own judgment.
55. 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”. The Committee also recognises that any failing must be serious (Vranicki v Architects Registration Board  EWHC 506 Admin).
56. The Committee has taken into account both parties’ submissions, and all the evidence before it.
57. However, so far as allegations 1.1 and 1.2 are concerned, given the Committee’s reasons for its finding that the Respondent did not act dishonestly in that she had acted on the advice of her professional awarding body, the Committee considers that the Respondent’s conduct does not demonstrate a sufficient level of moral culpability or opprobrium to conclude that her conduct amounts to UPC.
58. The Committee therefore finds that the Respondent’s conduct as found proved in respect of allegations 1.1 and 1.2 does not amount to unacceptable professional conduct.
59. So far as allegation 1.3 is concerned, the Committee notes that the Respondent repeatedly, and without good reason, failed to respond to the Board’s correspondence. Such conduct impedes the Board in carrying out its statutory regulatory function and amounts to a serious falling short of the standard of behaviour expected of a registered architect. The Committee rejects Mr Tackaberry’s submission that her failing does not amount to UPC because even if she had responded, it might not have had made any difference to how matters progressed. Firstly, that is speculation, and secondly, the obligation is to respond to one’s regulator. What flows from that is immaterial to the obligation to engage.
60. The Committee also rejects Mr Tackaberry’s submission that her failure to respond to the Board was “absolutely excusable” by reason of Mr R’s conduct towards the Respondent. The two matters are, in the Committee’s view, unrelated and her personal circumstances did not prevent her responding to ARB’s correspondence. In any event, the Respondent’s position was unequivocal in giving evidence in that she deliberately failed to respond in light of what she asserted was the Board’s previous failure to respond to correspondence from her solicitors.
61. In the circumstances, the Committee finds that the Respondent’s conduct in relation to allegation 1.3 is a serious falling short of the standard expected of a registered architect and amounts to UPC, which finding the Committee so makes.
62. Mr Tackaberry and Ms Gough then addressed the Committee in mitigation.
63. They submitted that no order should be made because of the following facts that they submitted should be taken into account:
• that whilst the Respondent should have responded to the Board’s correspondence,
it was understandable that she did not. It was they submitted, “an aberration” on
her part borne from her frustration at the process she had gone through;
• that she had suffered from health issues at the time;
• that she had been the subject of harassment;
• that no one had been affected by her failure to respond to the Board and that the
allegations would still have proceeded against her;
• that there was no victim in the sense that no one had suffered from her “postings”;
• that the PCC had previously imposed, in another, unrelated case, “no sanction” and
that this matter was a “far more trivial case”;
• that the Respondent was a member of the BME community and that the
Respondent had had to work hard to achieve her ambition of becoming an
Architect and that she had a “stellar academic record”;
• that the imposition of a reprimand would cause serious personal hardship for her
and the destruction of her career;
• that, whilst championing the plight of international students, she had proved
unable or incapable of facing her own difficulties and
• that she did not have the financial resources to pay a penalty order.
64. 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.
65. Having taken into account the Respondent’s submissions, the Committee has identified the following mitigating factors:
• that the Respondent has no adverse regulatory history albeit that her career has
been a short one;
• apart from the matter that has brought her before this Committee, she has
engaged in the regulatory process;
• she has not personally benefitted from her conduct, financially or otherwise;
• her failure to respond to the Board was in part due to her prioritising her efforts to
remain in the UK;
• the Respondent has provided a number of positive testimonials attesting to her
66. The Committee has identified the following aggravating factors:
• the Respondent’s actions in failing to respond to ARB’s correspondence were
deliberate and wholly unjustified;
• there has been no expression of regret, apology or remorse or demonstration of
insight into her failing.
67. The Committee has carefully considered Mr Tackaberry’s and Ms Gough’s submissions. The Committee recognises that, given her particular circumstances, the Respondent has faced additional hurdles in seeking to qualify in the UK which were undoubtedly stressful. However, in becoming a member of the profession, the Respondent is subject to the same standards of professional conduct as any other member. No greater obligation is being imposed on the Respondent than on any other member of the profession. The Committee has heard no reason, health or otherwise, that would have prevented her from responding to the Board, be it to respond substantively or to seek further time to be able to do so. On the contrary, in her evidence, the Respondent stated that she had made a conscious choice not to respond to the Board.
68. The Committee does not accept that no one was affected by the Respondent’s failure. The Board requires compliance of its members to be able to effectively undertake its regulatory role and the Respondent’s failure impeded the Board in that task.
69. For the reasons set out in its findings on UPC, the Committee does not consider it to be a mitigating factor that had the Respondent answered the Board’s correspondence, the matter would still have proceeded.
70. The Committee notes that the matters found proved are serious to the extent that Ms Walters’ failings diminish both her reputation, and that of the profession generally for the reasons set out in its determination on UPC. 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.
71. The Committee first considered whether to impose a reprimand. The Committee considered that such a sanction was appropriate and proportionate. It does not accept Mr Tackaberry’s submission that such a sanction would be disproportionate as it would destroy the Respondent’s career. The Committee is mindful of its overarching objective as set out above and considers that such a sanction to be proportionate notwithstanding any potential impact on the Respondent.
72. The Committee considered whether to impose a penalty order, but given the suitability of a reprimand, the Committee concluded that such a sanction would be unduly punitive.
73. At the request of Mr Tackaberry, the Committee directs that the Board publishes a statement that the Respondent was found not guilty of UPC in relation to allegations 1.1 and 1.2. pursuant to Section 15(5) Architects Act 1997 when it publishes this decision. This shall be in addition to the Board’s mandatory publication of the Committee’s finding of UPC in relation to allegation 1.3.
74. That concludes this determination.