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George Oldham handed ARB reprimand over ‘the ethnics’ slur

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Former ARB board member George Oldham has received a reprimand over a leaked email in which he referred to Stephen Lawrence Trust candidates as ‘the ethnics’

Oldham was issued the slap on the wrist in his absence by the board’s professional conduct committee (PCC) yesterday (14 May) following a lengthy hearing.

Announcing the penalty, committee chair Alexandra Marks said: ‘The email which in the panel judgement constituted unacceptable professional conduct, by virtue of its publication in a professional journal reached a wide audience within the profession and beyond it.

‘Such [an action] in the panel’s view has at least the potential to damage not only Oldham’s reputation as a high respected and senior member of the profession, but also the profession itself and the professional bodies which represent and regulate it.’

The admonishment comes more than a month after the committee found Oldham guilty of unacceptable professional conduct over the affair.

The leading light of the ARB reform Group refused to attend the latest meeting on the grounds, arguing it should haven take place in Scotland where Oldham lives, but agreed that his representative, Ian Salisbury, would read a statement of mitigation on his behalf.

In the statement Oldham objected to the decision and complained his right to a fair hearing had been denied.

Reading the document, Salisbury said: ‘If there is one thing you do not deserve it is to receive an apology from Oldham. Rather he deserves an apology from you for the kangaroo court procedures that you have submitted him to.

‘Oldham is astonished that a tribunal that is conducted with such incompetence holds sway over the livelihood of these on the register, it is a scandal.’

In a letter sent to the AJ, Oldham added: ‘I find this [decision] ludicrous and I continue to find it shocking that the [ARB] should attempt to denigrate a high profile opponent of this parasitic organisation.’

Oldham said he was unsure whether he would follow through with his plan to apply for a judicial review prior to the penalty because he was ‘not in a position to risk the heavy costs’. However he told the AJ he had a ‘number of options’ open to him and would not be giving up the fight.

The PCC decision comes a year after the former Barratt chief architect was asked to resign from the ARB board for a misdirected email in which he criticised RIBA president Angela Brady for supporting Stephen Lawrence Trust-backed candidates during last year’s ARB elections. 

The email sent to ARB Reform Group candidates said: ‘Brady’s support for the “ethnics” is as inappropriate and irrelevant as is to be expected from her.

‘I had been looking forward to returning to the civilisation of the RIBA Council from the bureaucratic inanities of the ARB. Now I’m profoundly depressed, and am simply feeling “a plague on both your houses”.’







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