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Court case exposes ARB's protection of title 'absurdities'

A nine-year-old court ruling obtained by the AJ has exposed ongoing 'absurdities' in the ARB's protection of title claims.

Last week, the ARB confirmed via a letter to the AJ that it had contacted Atkins, rapping the practice's knuckles after an employee referred to himself as a 'trainee architect' in the careers guide in AJ 08.03.07.

However, the ruling in Munkenbeck and Marshall v Kensington Hotel (Judgement 23.12.98) explicitly states that the regulatory body had no right to do so, nor should it in any similar case.

In this case, Munkenbeck and Marshall's client, Kensington Hotel, refused to pay for the practice's services on the grounds that it had been duped into believing all personnel on the project were registered architects.

The judge found that the term 'architect' is customarily used within the profession and allied trades in relation to people possessing 'some or all of the qualifications'.

The solicitor working on the case, Robert Hogarth, said that although the judge's decision did not overrule the Architects Act 1997, it did recognise that in practice 'people refer to themselves, and advertise for, 'Part 2 qualified' architects and such'.

Hogarth added: 'Although the statute was not overruled, the case did highlight the absurdity of Part 2-qualified architects not being able to call themselves architects.'

Many in the profession, especially those in the ARB Reform Group, are exasperated by the ARB's protection of title crusade - they feel the body often goes too far and wastes fee-payers' money to prevent a person using the term architect.

Some members of the splinter group, which aims to disband the ARB, say the body should not be able to prosecute.

Yet ARB chief executive Alison Carr has defended the body's work. She said: 'We will continue to prosecute people who intend to practice using the term architect when they are not registered. As we have never had anyone who intended to gain business under the title 'trainee architect', we couldn't say how we would act. We take each case as it comes.

'However, we can say we have not prosecuted anyone for calling themselves a 'trainee architect'. In regards to the matter with Atkins, it has been resolved, and there is nothing further to say.'

Carr added: 'We would like to ask that the AJ help us in protecting the use of title, and not act against us.'

Meanwhile, a petition has been launched campaigning for recognition of the term 'graduate architect'. At present the ARB does not recognise the title, and could prosecute anyone practising under it. However, if acknowledged by government it would render the ARB's statute powerless.

Mark Physsas, former member of student group Archaos and instigator of the petition, said: 'We think that after completing six years of training to not even be able to call ourselves 'graduate architects' is a bit unfair.'

See the petition at www.urlhere.co.uk

by Richard Vaughan

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