At a hearing of the Architects Registration Board’s Professional Conduct Committee in London on 17 October 2016, Jeremy Hutchinson and Michael Irwin of Harris Irwin Associates, Richmond, North Yorkshire were both found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct, and issued with 3 month suspension and a £2,500 penalty order respectively.
The Architects were both employed at Gelder & Kitchen Architects (G&K). On leaving G&K Mr Hutchison made and took a backup copy of all the practice files of G&K. Mr Irwin permitted Mr Hutchinson to keep that copy in the safe at of their new practice Harris Associates Ltd (HIA). Mr Hutchinson referred to the file when acting for clients who had moved to HIA from G&K, and Mr Irwin also accessed the backup on one occasion. The drawings on the files were complete, and had G&K’s name upon them.
A principal at G&K was informed by a supplier that the project he was working on for HIA had the name of G&K on the drawing which was on the planning website, and so became aware of the unauthorised use of G&K material.
It was alleged that Mr Hutchison was upon leaving his employment at G&K, he knowingly took copies of G&K files to which he was not entitled; and in so doing he failed to act with honesty and integrity. The allegation against Mr Irwin was that he knowingly allowed unauthorised copies of G&K files to be stored on the premises of HIA, and failed to put processes in place to prevent them being used. In doing so he failed to act with integrity. Both respondents admitted the allegations, and that they amounted to unacceptable professional conduct.
The PCC found the matters to be serious to the extent that the architects’ failings diminished both their reputations and that of the profession generally.
In considering sanction, the PCC acknowledged that this was uncharacteristic behaviour for both architects, that was unlikely to be repeated. Insofar as they could, the architects had rectified their conduct, and displayed full insight and remorse and contrition. There was no harm to others, nor gain to the respondents.
The PCC decided that the seriousness of the two architects’ failings were different. It was Mr Hutchinson who made the backup of data, and did so without the involvement of Mr Irwin. Mr Hutchison admitted dishonesty, with which Mr Irwin was not charged.
With this in mind, the PCC decided that a penalty order of £2500 in respect of Mr Irwin was the appropriate sanction, but given the finding of dishonesty, it was necessary to suspend Mr Hutchinson from the Register of Architects for three months. .
A copy of the Committee’s decision can be found here.
Notes for Editors
ARB 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:
- Maintain the Register of Architects (Section 3)
- Prescribe qualifications for entry to the Register of Architects (Section 4)
- Deal with competence to practise (Section 9)
- Issue a Code which lays down standards of professional conduct and practice (Section 13)
- Regulate use of the title “architect” and prosecute those who use it unlawfully (Section 20)
The PCC is established under Schedule 1, Part II of the Architects Act and is required to consider any report referred to it. The Committee determines whether an architect is guilty of unacceptable professional conduct or serious professional incompetence. Where a guilty finding is made, the Committee will consider whether to make a disciplinary order, which means:
- a reprimand
- a penalty order
- a suspension order (to a maximum of 2 years); or
- an erasure order
Money raised by fines imposed by the Professional Conduct Committee is paid to HM Treasury.
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