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'Bug death' architect erased from register

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The architect at the centre of the UK’s worst outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease has been banned from practising by the Architects Registration Board (ARB)

Yesterday (7 April) the ARB’s professional conduct committee decided to ‘erase’ Gillian Beckingham, 50, from the register, almost three years after she was convicted in connection with the deaths of at least five people at the Forum 28 arts centre in Barrow. 

Although cleared of manslaughter at the trial in July 2006, the former head of the design services group at Barrow Borough Council was found guilty of breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act and fined £15,000.

Beckingham was accused of cancelling a contract to test the centre’s faulty air-conditioning system, which sprayed deadly bacteria into the air, causing at least five people to die and infecting 172 others.

Describing the case as ‘sad’, the ARB’s conduct committee chose to ‘erase’ rather than suspend Beckingham after being presented with a psychiatrist’s report stating that she was still suffering from post-traumatic-stress disorder.

An ARB spokesman said: ‘The committee said that Beckingham had already suffered a penalty and it was not its intention to punish again; however it needed to both protect the public – and the profession’s most valuable asset is its collective reputation.

‘Given her medical circumstances they considered suspension, but the law only allows this for two years and there is no guarantee that she would be fit to practice at this point. They hoped that she would recover sufficiently to return to practice at a later date.’

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