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ARB blasted over hearing for 'minor misdemeanour'

An architect approaching retirement with his reputation intact has lashed out at the ARB for 'using a sledgehammer to crack a nut' after he was dragged into a professional conduct hearing taking place yesterday.

Stephen Liney, 54, of Stephen Liney & Associates in Welshpool, Powys, was summoned by the ARB to hear complaints of 'unacceptable professional conduct'made against him at Fetter Lane in the City of London yesterday after a series of accusations levelled against him by client Michael Smith.

Liney told the AJ he was 'horrified' about having his name and reputation tarnished in the eyes of his fellow professionals for such a minor misdemeanour. And he revealed that the complainant was seeking to maximise his pain by writing to all his clients in a bid to get them to attend and witness the public hearing in person. 'It has caused me an awful lot of anguish and six working days to answer the allegations made, ' he added. 'One of my clients rang me to say he'd had a letter from Smith soliciting his attendance - 'the next thing you will hear is me tearing that letter up', they said to me.'

The ARB - which was yesterday likely to issue its lowest penalty, a reprimand - said Liney was to be tried for transgressing standard 4, 'that architects should carry out their professional work faithfully and conscientiously and with due regard to relevant technical and professional standards'. But Liney said that the complainant had made a total of 10-12 'quite monstrous' accusations and was expecting to have a 'field day' at the session, in which he hoped to see him 'hung, drawn and quartered'.

The case concerns a period when Liney said he had been asked to help out client Smith, a former solicitor, by one of Liney's long-standing clients, for whom he had worked for more than 25 years.

Smith had already engaged two consultants but had dismissed them after finding their work unsatisfactory. The job in question was to convert a former factory building in Hinckley, which Smith had bought, into four residential flats.

Liney admits that he did not write to confirm a fee scale, or write to confirm his appointment, or write to inform the client as to how the appointment would be terminated. As such he was not going to contest the ARB conduct case.

The ARB said it is moving away from holding full professional conduct committee hearings for the more minor cases and towards creating a new series of penalties (AJ 11.01.01) based on warning letters and a points system. Conduct cases cost between £2,000-£5,000 each to stage, compared with competence cases, which can cost £20,000 per case.

In 13 cases heard since the ARB's inception in January 1998, two people have been struck off, one has been suspended and the other 10 have involved fines, reprimands or 'not guilty' verdicts.

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