James Burrell has been suspended from the Architects’ Registration Board (ARB) register for two years having being found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct
The ARB’s Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) heard Burrell endorsed invoices to a new company after his old company, Burrell Chaudhuri Architects, was dissolved without filing its accounts.
Burrell failed to inform the change of company to his clients. Following an invoice dispute, Burrell threatened litigation and only reluctantly agreed to the mediation proposed by his clients
When that meeting took place, his clients discovered the company they had contracted with had been dissolved some months before, and argued a dissolved company cannot pursue invoices as its assets lie with the Crown.
Burrell informed them that they had accepted the position by paying the new company, and that it was their fault for refusing to assign the agreement. He instructed a solicitor’s letter to be sent demanding the money in the name of a third company.
Burrell’s wife, who managed the accounts of the practice, then threatened to write to the employer of one of the clients who had been corresponding from her work email.
Two months later, and immediately after a complaint was made to ARB, Burrell’s wife wrote to the client’s employer to say that she had been abusing her work email to send personal correspondence relating to the project.
It was alleged Burrell failed to ensure his business was managed competently by allowing his company to be dissolved by Companies House.
It was further alleged Burrell permitted the continued use of the name Burrell Chaudhuri Architects after dissolution, and that he pursued outstanding fees due to that company when he knew – or ought to have known – it had been dissolved.
It was further alleged that representations were made by, or on Burrell’s behalf, which were unprofessional, inappropriate, and discreditable to the profession; and that he had failed to deal with his client’s complaint courteously or encourage alternative methods of dispute resolution.
Burrell admitted all of the allegations and agreed that they amounted to unacceptable professional conduct. In mitigation, he maintained that he did not know of his company’s dissolution and did not personally send the offending correspondence to his clients, though accepted that were both his ultimate responsibility. He apologised to his clients at the hearing.
The committee decided the allegations amounted to unacceptable professional conduct and that Burrell had acted without integrity. Considering all the circumstances of the case, the committee concluded that the appropriate sanction was a suspension order for the maximum period of two years.
In imposing this sanction, the committee took account of a previous PCC disciplinary finding against Burrell on a similar matter. It considered that in light of his earlier reprimand, he ought to have been particularly aware of the importance of complying with the provisions of the Code of Conduct, as well as all areas of law relevant to his companies.