George Oldham found guilty of misconduct over ‘ethnics’ email
George Oldham will take his case to the High Court after being found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct
George Oldham is to take his battle with the ARB to the High Court after being found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct over a leaked email in which he referred to Stephen Lawrence Trust candidates as ‘the ethnics’.
The ARB’s Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) gave its verdict at the end of a tense hearing on Friday (12 April) but allowed an adjournment to hear mitigating evidence before imposing any penalties on the 73-year-old.
Potential sanctions facing Oldham – who is a longstanding campaigner for ARB’s abolition – include a reprimand, a £2,500 fine, a two-year suspension or even erasure from the register.
The decision comes a year after the former Barratt chief architect was asked to resign from the ARB board after misdirecting an email which criticised RIBA president Angela Brady for supporting Stephen Lawrence Trust-backed candidates in last year’s ARB elections.
The email, sent to ARB Reform Group candidates and in error to the AJ, said: ‘Brady’s support for the “ethnics” is as inappropriate and irrelevant as is to be expected from her.
‘I had been looking forward to returning to the civilisation of the RIBA Council from the bureaucratic inanities of the ARB. Now I’m profoundly depressed, and am simply feeling “a plague on both your houses”.’
PCC chair Alexandra Marks said it was not alleged that Oldham was racist, but the ‘use of the word “ethnics” was […] capable of adverse interpretation.’
Marks accepted that both Brady and ARB chair Beatrice Fraenkel had drawn a line under the incident after accepting Oldham’s personal explanation. But she said others would have been ‘justifiably angry and shocked’.
In conclusion, the PCC chair argued Oldham was guilty of unacceptable professional conduct because, among other reasons, labelling the candidates ‘the ethnics’ was ‘unfair and showed disrespect to those candidates as individuals and to fellow professionals’ and was contrary to Standard 12 of the Architects Code.
In a statement, Oldham described the hearing as ‘chillingly Kafkaesque’ and claimed: ‘No evidence at all has been offered to prove that any individual was harmed or that the reputation of the profession was in any way compromised.’
Speaking to the AJ, Oldham confirmed he had taken legal advice on making an application to the High Court for judicial review of the decision. He said: ‘I’m talking to my solicitor about judicial review. That would be the next step. It seems to me they haven’t got a leg to stand on.’
He added: ‘It’s certainly an injustice; they are not prepared to listen to hard evidence and it is completely disproportionate and they haven’t adopted the right procedures. On every count it is a travesty.’