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ARB faces legal action over Ingrid Morris case

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Aggrieved architect Ingrid Morris is considering suing the Architects Registration Board for tens of thousands of pounds, writes Robert Booth.

The threat of legal action was sparked this week when the regulator finally rejected calls to re-examine her controversial professional conduct case.

Morris, 55, claims she is £30,000 out of pocket after successfully defending charges of unacceptable professional conduct heard by the ARB in January (AJ 20.1.00).

But the ARB says it is unable to pay legal costs or compensation and Morris' legal representative, Stephen Fairburn, received a letter from the regulator's chief executive Robin Vaughan on Monday saying the handling of the case cannot be reconsidered. This followed a lengthy correspondence.

Morris said that she will confer further with Fairburn before deciding to sue, but seemed in fighting mood. 'I'd spend £10,000 [on a legal action] if I had more than a fifty-fifty chance of winning, ' she said this week. 'Then I would go for compensation - I'd go for the jugular.' Fairburn estimated that the case would cost £10,000 or less and claimed the original case was not investigated properly, the hearing was not fair and the delay between the 1997 investigation and this year's hearing was too long.

Recently strengthened human rights legislation would bolster these points but any case would not be based on human rights law, he said.

Morris was originally accused of knowingly submitting false plans to a local authority; overcertifying to contractors; overcharging fees; and having a conflict of interest in appointing a structural engineer with whom she was accused of having a 'personal/sexual' relationship. She was cleared of all charges. The ARB was unable to comment because ofrestrictions placed on it in the Architects Act 1997.

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