Ron Baden-Hellard has emerged victorious in his latest battle against what is now the arb following a successful appeal at Woolwich Crown Court last week. But although his win meant a fine against him of £1000 with £2000 costs was thrown out and only a nominal £100 fine ordered in its place, Baden-Hellard is still about £25,000 out of pocket because of the long and complex affair.
'I knew it was going to cost money,' a satisfied Baden-Hellard told the aj, 'but what has anybody got out of it? I don't think the profession's got anything out of it all, nor has the public. The arb does not have a useful function but the lawyers have benefitted as ever.'
In early 1997, Hellard was fined £1000 by Greenwich Magistrates Court with £2000 costs for using the initials friba on a letter when he was 'not a registered person' (ie when he was not on the then arcuk's register of architects).
The arb, which superseded arcuk and took forward the case against Baden- Hellard, said this week it had initiated the prosecution 'as a matter of consumer protection' and 'has merely been concerned to establish the principle that riba affixes cannot be used by non-registered persons in practice or in business'. It chose not to pursue costs because of Baden- Hellard's age and means but only did so on the agreement that Baden-Hellard kept quiet about the case. The arb's solicitors wrote to Baden-Hellard suggesting the deal on 7 July 1999, but stressed this week it felt that the reduction in the fine to £100 did not affect the 'basic and important principle which has been confirmed by the courts'. The arb now considers the matter closed.
Baden-Hellard, who has not practised as an architect since 1970, said the reduction of the fine represented 'a very considerable justification of his fight over four years to clear his professional reputation.'
The complaints against him were originally made by a Zahra Sahirad to arcuk after Baden-Hellard found against her company in an arbitration. Sahirad also complained to the riba and the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. Baden-Hellard says she still has not paid the £24,000 bill which came at the end of the case. He told the court last week that at that time it was believed that to infringe the Act two things were necessary - to call oneself an architect and practise as such, and that previous cases brought by arcuk supported that view.