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ARB defends itself against ‘kangaroo court procedures’ claims

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The Architects’ Regulation Board has hit back at a wave of criticism over its disciplinary procedures

The regulator has refuted claims that its investigations procedure was unwieldy and weighted against architects.

Design Council Cabe chair Paul Finch wrote in AJ last week that ARB relied on ‘kangaroo court procedures’ where it acted ‘as prosecutor, judge and jury’.

And Bakewell-based architect Adrian Russell, facing a tribunal hearing for the way he gave requested feedback to a planning authority, said the body ‘assumed guilt’ of defendants.

But ARB registrar and chief executive Alison Carr said the body had a rigorous three-stage process for investigating complaints made against architects.

‘In the first six months of this year, we received 453 enquiries, and only 84 of these turned into formal complaints,’ said Carr. ‘When we do receive a complaint, 40 per cent end at that stage.’

The second stage sees an investigations panel decide which of the remaining complaints will go to tribunal, with the majority being dismissed, according to Carr.

‘A small number do go to the professional conduct committee, which is a public hearing,’ she said. ‘This is an independent tribunal, and it does not answer to the ARB board. This is very similar to how other regulators work.’

The ARB’s staunch defence comes as it gears up for another official review of its usefulness.

The coalition government – which scrapped almost 200 public bodies in 2010 – will begin an investigation into ARB’s purpose and processes in February 2014.

Finch wrote last week: ‘If an architect has behaved incompetently, thereby costing you money, you will have to get financial redress through the courts – real courts of the land, that is.

‘After that, ARB may run the architect through its own kangaroo court procedures, pretty much acting as prosecutor, judge and jury.’

What ARB does is to assume guilt once a complaint has been made

He added: ‘What ARB does in practice is to assume guilt once a complaint has been made, and force the architect to prove their innocence.’

Russell agreed the ARB ‘appears to waste money on professional conduct investigations by… ignoring any evidence produced to refute the allegations. All the allegations then form the basis of the charge.’

He added: ‘Evidence which must be prepared to refute the charges at a hearing will be adjudicated on by only three people. They have to assimilate the 82 pages of documents prepared by the board’s solicitor, and the 80 or so pages of evidence and witness statements prepared for the defence as well as hear witnesses.’

Carr pointed out that many regulators used three-person tribunals and that each member of the tribunal had to assimilate all the information regardless of how many others there were.

She said ability to read and retain information was a key skill required to be appointed to the tribunals, which are always chaired by a lawyer.

Carr added: ‘We have to fulfil a number of roles set out in an Act of Parliament.

‘We hold a register of 34,000 architects and make it available so the public know they are using someone competent. It is pointless having that list if we do not regulate the architects on it.’

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Readers' comments (2)

  • "She said ability to read and retain information was a key skill required to be appointed to the tribunals"

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  • See the qualification and training required of the Arb's investigators at http://tinyurl.com/Arb-inv-quals, and the qualifications and training required of members at the PCC at http://tinyurl.com/Arb-PCC-quals. You would expect both to be at least equal to those on the register.

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