ARB 'breached human rights'
riba's adviser on arbitration and expert witness Ian Salisbury has accused the arb of breaking new human rights laws in the way it carried out a conduct case into Ingrid Mary Morris last week. And he has challenged the riba to launch a legal action against the board - even though Morris was cleared of all four charges against her by the board's professional conduct committee. Despite proving her innocence, Morris still faces a bill for an estimated £20,000 excluding her own time and stress, since the arb will never award costs.
Salisbury has written to the institute's director of practice Keith Snook to complain that the arb's three-day case against his client Morris last week (aj 20.1.00) transgressed the Human Rights Act 1998, which only came into force on 10 January this year. Although he told the aj he was 'delighted' that Morris was cleared of the charges of overcertification, overcharging, and a conflict of interest relating to her alleged sexual relationship with the structural engineer she recommended on a house refurbishment, Salisbury has 'grave concerns' on a series of points.
'The charges should never have been brought in the first place' he said. 'The process was abused'.
Salisbury is also angry that another of the key charges in the case, that Morris submitted a false plan for planning permission, was not 'particularised' - it was not clear which drawings were supposedly 'false' and the defence was left to second-guess. He also attacked the arb for neglecting to undertake a rigorous preliminary investigation to establish whether there was a case, for denying Morris access to relevant documents unless she paid around £600 for them, and for the tribunal's decision to drop charges implying misconduct on the sensitive conflict of interest matters before she gave any evidence - but after she had spent more money preparing her defence.
'Under the Human Rights Act Morris is entitled to a fair hearing,' Salisbury said. 'When charges are not particularised and rules not followed, I think she was denied this. I'd be delighted if the riba became involved.'
Morris still faces a bill for work from Salisbury and from Stephen Fairburn of solicitors John Healy and Co. Fairburn told the AJ the 'grossly unfair' case had been a 'complete waste of money all round' since a thorough investigation would have told the arb there was no case to answer. 'It was unfair and caused a lot of distress to Ingrid Morris, who was shaking while giving evidence' he said.
Meanwhile, the unsuccessful complainants in the case, chemistry lecturer Dr Lynda Partridge and accountant Paul Church, had already won £109,000 from the High Court in the affair in 1993. A complaint was originally made to the riba in 1994 - Partridge followed it with a complaint to arcuk in 1996, passed on to the arb which began investigating in May 1997.
Salisbury, a former honorary secretary of the riba and a director of the Construction Industry Council, is also the institute's advisor on expert-witness matters, liability and insurance, and has now urged the riba to provide Morris with funds to bring an application for judicial review.
Curiously, the arb says that although before the case it could disseminate details of Morris' case to the press, because of the way the Architects Act is written, it has not been allowed to comment or even issue details of the result without Morris' permission. If she had been guilty however, the arb could have published what it deemed 'appropriate'.