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Profession faces implications of Baden Hellard defeat

Ron Baden Hellard has lost the latest stage in his long-running battle against the Architects Registration Board. 'I'm shattered, ' he told the AJ, 'and I no longer know what the English language means.'

In his judgment - which had not been expected for another week - Lord Justice Pill said he did not accept that Parliament intended the prohibition of the use of the FRIBA initials only to cover architectural business or practice.

'However, ' he said, 'if I am wrong about that, and a limited construction is to be given, the construction should, in my view, be sufficiently wide to cover practice or business as an arbritrator in a building dispute. Expertise in architecture was 'plainly a qualification for the appointment'.

Elizabeth Appleby, QC, had argued that the first issue was whether Hellard's name followed by his qualifications under the signature in correspondence or in his CV came within the words 'name, style or title' under which he was carrying on business. The second issue was whether the business being practised or carried on by the respondent was a 'business' within the meaning of the Act.

Lord Justice Pill concluded that the initials FRIBA do contain the word 'architect' within the meaning of the Act. 'The initials FRIBA are well known as denoting that qualification. The expression FRIBA contains the word architect, it has no meaning except to denote several words, one of which is the word 'architect'. The defence that the abbreviation signified a word other than the word 'architect' has no relevance in present circumstances. The construction I favour avoids the absurdity of it being an offence to include as part of a title 'Fellow of the Royal Insititute of British Architects' and not an offence to use FRIBA which is known to mean, and only to mean, Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects.'

The RIBA, meanwhile, has responded by advising all its corporate members not on the ARB register either to register or to stop using an RIBA suffix as part of the name, style or title under which they are practising or carrying on that business. It defines'practising or carrying on any kind of business' as referring to any kind of business, regardless of whether it is architecture, related to architecture or unrelated to architecture.

ARB registrar Andrew Finch was loath to be triumphalist about the result of the case. 'We've got a judgment which clarifies the position for everybody, ' he told the AJ. 'We certainly don't want it to come across as a victory.'

Baden Hellard is expected to learn this week whether or not he has leave to take an appeal to the House of Lords.

The court decision makes it more likely that the RIBA will change its name to become the Royal Institute of British Architecture. The issue will be debated at RIBA Council next week, with four consultation options presented. They are: a name change to the Royal Institute of Architecture; Royal Institute of British Architecture, with or without action to strengthen the status of architect members; and no name change but a review of corporate identity and strategic mission.

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