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Consultation on proposed consent orders

Proposed amendments to the Professional Conduct Committee Rules

Consultation paper 2014/01
Open date:  28 July 2014
Closing date:  28 October 2014

Introduction

The Architects Registration Board was established by Parliament in 1997 to regulate the architects’ profession in the UK.  We are an independent public interest body, and our work in regulating architects ensures that good standards within the profession are consistently maintained for the benefit of the public and architects alike.

Background to consultation

The Architects Registration Board has agreed to hold a consultation exercise following its decision to make amendments to the Professional Conduct Committee Rules in order to introduce Consent Orders.  The consultation will comply with ARB’s code of practice for consultation exercises.

Purpose of consultation

Before formalising this decision, it is important that we have as wide a range of views as possible.  This input will assist the Board in its final consideration of the revised Rules before they are implemented. We would therefore appreciate any views or comments you might have on the proposed changes.

The Architects Act 1997 (the Act) places a duty on the Board to investigate allegations of professional misconduct and incompetence against registered architects, and the Investigations Rules and Professional Conduct Committee Rules (the Rules) are created under Schedule 1 Part III and Section 14 (6) of the Act.

The Rules set out the procedure by which complaints about architects are investigated, to ensure that an efficient, robust and fair disciplinary procedure is followed and that both the public and architects have confidence in the Board’s investigation of complaints.  The main proposed change to the Rules is the introduction of Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) Consent Orders.

The purpose of PCC Consent Orders is to allow the ARB and an architect who is under investigation for allegations of unacceptable professional conduct or serious professional incompetence to reach a consensual decision by way of an agreed disciplinary sanction, without the need for a full PCC hearing.

The proposed process is that, after an architect has been referred to the PCC, the ARB’s solicitor will consider whether the case is suitable to be resolved by a Consent Order. Cases which are envisaged to be suitable are ones in which the architect does not dispute the facts or that his/her conduct amounts to unacceptable professional conduct and/or serious professional incompetence, and where there is no substantial public interest in the case being heard at a full public hearing. Some cases will clearly not be suitable to be dealt with by way of a Consent Order and these would be progressed to a full PCC hearing in the usual way.

Once a report has been prepared by the ARB’s solicitor, a proposed Consent Order would be offered to the respondent architect setting out:

  • The agreed facts;
  • The act of unacceptable professional conduct and/or serious professional incompetence and/or criminal conviction;
  • The terms of any disciplinary sanction to be imposed;
  • Confirmation that the respondent architect has been offered the opportunity of a hearing but does not require one.

The terms of the proposed Consent Order and the proposed disciplinary sanction would be set by the ARB and, although there may be some informal negotiations between the ARB and the architect in relation to minor factual disputes, it should not be subject to protracted or substantial negotiations. The Consent Order should be a mutual agreement between the ARB and the architect and the architect would be under no obligation to agree a Consent Order. If not agreed by the respondent architect, or if the architect wants a full hearing, the case would proceed to a full PCC hearing.

If agreed by the respondent architect, a Consent Order Panel made up of three PCC panel members would consider the proposed Consent Order and decide whether to approve or reject it. If approved by the Panel, the Consent Order would be recorded as a disciplinary finding against the respondent and be published in the usual way. If rejected by the Panel, the case would be heard at a full PCC hearing by a differently constituted Panel of PCC members. A flowchart showing the stages of the process is available here.

The potential benefits of PCC Consent Orders are that it allows respondent architects who are accepting the allegations against them to avoid the time, stress and expense of attending a full PCC hearing. This would also be a benefit to any witnesses who may be called on behalf of the ARB, to avoid the time and stress involved in giving evidence at a hearing.

PCC Consent Orders would also reduce the costs incurred by the ARB in holding a full PCC hearing, as the Consent Order Panel would not be required to hold a hearing or meet in person and could reach a decision by way of email or teleconferencing. Costs savings would include Panel members’ time and expenses, the cost of legal representation at a hearing, and venue and facilities costs. Cases could also be scheduled relatively quickly for consideration by a Consent Order Panel and would therefore reduce the overall length of the case if approved. However, there may be a moderate increase in time and costs if the Consent Order is rejected by the Panel and proceeds to a full PCC hearing, as some time and cost would have been incurred in preparing and considering the rejected Consent Order.

The Board agreed to issue the amended Rules for consultation at its Board meeting on 17 July 2014.

A table containing the proposed amendments is available to view in the Consultation Response form listed below.  The amended Rules in their entirety and the existing version are available from the links below.

Consultation documents

Please use the links below to access the consultation documents.

Contact details

Responses can be sent to us by email, fax or post, and should be addressed to:

Simon Howard
Professional Standards Manager
professionalstandards@arb.org.uk

ARB
8 Weymouth Street
London W1W 5BU

t. 020 7580 5861
f. 020 7436 5269

We would appreciate any views or comments you might have on the proposed changes. Please let us have these by no later than 5pm on 28 October 2014.  If you have any queries about any aspect of this consultation exercise, please contact professionalstandards@arb.org.uk or call us on 020 7580 5861.  We will publish a summary of all responses on our website once the Board has considered them.

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