On 27 July 2017 the Architects Registration Board’s Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) reprimanded Dr Ghassan Kamha of Dr Ghassan Kamha & Partners, after finding him guilty of unacceptable professional conduct.
The PCC heard that Dr Kamha was asked by the trustees of CMA Welfare Trust (“the Trust”) to assist with the issues arising from a withdrawn planning application and to work on a new design for the development of the mosque and subsequent planning application. Dr Kamha agreed to assist on a “pro-bono” basis, however the extent of the work that was to be done became the subject of a dispute. In October 2015, the Trustees informed Dr Kamha that they wished to engage another architect and invited him to submit an invoice. Dr Kamha rendered an invoice of £36,000. The Trust refused to pay the invoice and alleged that no formal terms of engagement were set out in writing.
The PCC also heard that in 2016, Dr Kamha created a Facebook page and shared confidential documents he had received whilst he was instructed by the Trust.
Dr Kamha attended the hearing and represented himself. He denied the allegations but accepted that no letter of engagement was ever sent to the Trust due to the circumstances of the project. He denied however that the allegations amounted to unacceptable professional conduct.
In relation to the second allegation the Committee noted the witness’ admission that he had not personally seen the documents alleged to be on Facebook and listed in his witness statements, nor could he say whether they had appeared on the planning file. Further the Committee had seen no evidence that two of the six documents were not on a previous planning file that was open to inspection and were therefore not confidential. In light of this, the Committee found that the second allegation could not amount to unacceptable professional conduct and it was dismissed.
In relation to the first allegation the PCC noted that no terms of engagement were ever sent and concluded that Dr Kamha failed to set out the scope of his work or include any of the matters required. The Committee considered that regardless of Dr Kamha’s desire to assist the Trust on an informal basis, there is a professional obligation at the heart of every relationship between client and architect, whether paid or not, to set out clearly the terms covered in Standard 4.4. The Committee considered that his failure to adhere to this professional obligation, regardless of his reasons for doing so, amounts to unacceptable professional conduct.
In considering sanction, the PCC noted Dr Kamha’s unblemished career across thirty five years as an architect and that he had fully engaged in the regulatory process. It also took into account his expression of remorse and apology to the Committee. However it considered that the requirement to send a letter of engagement is to protect both parties and in failing to send such a letter he placed himself and the Trust at risk. In those circumstances, the PCC decided the appropriate sanction was a reprimand.
A copy of the Committee’s decision can be found here.
At a separate hearing on 26 June 2017, the PCC reconvened to consider whether Mr Reymond Smale of London should be suspended or erased from the Register following his failure to pay the penalty order imposed on 7 December 2016.
Mr Smale was not legally represented and did not attend the hearing.
The Committee took into account the fact that Mr Smale has neither engaged with the substantive hearing, nor this hearing. It therefore regarded the prospects of the penalty being paid in full or in part, as minimal. It concluded that the penalty order previously imposed against Mr Smale was insufficient to protect the public and the reputation of the profession and that a further sanction was therefore appropriate and proportionate.
In light of the potential damage to the reputation of the Board, the profession and the PCC in the eyes of the public were its sanctions not enforced, the Committee concluded that erasure was the appropriate sanction. It is satisfied that a lesser sanction would undermine confidence in the profession and the ARB as its regulator.
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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