On 2 June 2015, Mr Kelvin Harley of BHW Architecture in Great Yarmouth was ordered to pay in excess of £6,000 after pleading guilty to illegally misusing the title ‘Architect’ in his practice.
Great Yarmouth Magistrates’ Court heard that the Architects Registration Board had been contacted by the wife of a Mr Witcomb, the former architect at the practice. Investigations uncovered that despite Mr Witcomb’s resignation on the grounds of ill health in 2011, his former partner Mr Harley had continued to trade as ‘Architects’ under his name.
The court was told that once Mr Harley was made aware of the investigation he amended the website and visited Mr Witcomb, who is suffering from dementia and recovering from a stroke, while his wife was out. During that visit he persuaded Mr Witcomb to sign a letter stating that he had been supervising all of the work since he left the practice, and tried to use this letter as a defence to the charge.
The prosecution, brought by the Architects Registration Board, alleged that there had been no architect retained by BHW or Mr Harley since April 2012; that they had continued to practice as architects in various forms, and that these offences had continued even though they had been pointed out.
The ARB was of the view that any suggestion that Mr Witcomb had been supervising the practice was entirely without merit. His seriously failing health had rendered him housebound and he had received no contact from Mr Harley during that time. He did not have access to a computer.
In mitigation at the hearing Mr Harley admitted that there had been a lapse in his professional standards as he pleaded guilty to the offence.
After giving credit for the guilty plea the Court imposed the maximum fine available under the Architects Act 1997, of £1,835. Mr Harley was also ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £120 and a further £4,270 in legal costs, giving a total of £6,225.
A spokesperson on behalf of ARB’s Professional Standards Department said:
“This was a callous attempt to piggy-back the credentials of a vulnerable person in order to continue to trade illegally under the title ‘architect’. We are glad that the Court took the most serious view of the conduct of Mr Harley’.
Notes for Editors
Notes for Editors
Architects Registration Board is the statutory body established by Parliament under the Architects Act 1997 to regulate the UK architects’ profession in the public interest. The Act requires ARB, among other things, to regulate use of the title “architect” and to take action when it is being used unlawfully (Section 20).
ARB has a Board of 15 members, seven of whom are architects elected by the profession. The remaining eight are members of the public appointed by the Privy Council to represent the interests of consumers and users of architectural services.
The maximum fine for each offence, currently £2500, is set by the Architects Act 1997. Magistrates determine the amount of the fine (and related costs) after considering the nature of the offence and any mitigation put forward by the defendant. Money raised from fines is paid to HM Treasury, not to ARB.
For further information, please contact Simon Howard, Professional Standards Manager, on 020 7580 5861, or by email on firstname.lastname@example.org