RIBA president-elect Paul Hyett is to press the Architects' Registration Board (ARB) to drop the use of fines and make more use of continuing professional development to bring wayward architects into line. His comments follow the case of Geoffrey Tournoff, who was struck off after refusing to pay an £800 fine for misleading a client about the progress of a planning application (AJ 38.00).
Hyett said the system of fines imposed by the Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) satiated a 'deep-seated desire among British society to see people punished', but said that fines performed no useful function. Instead, he told the AJ, Architects should face warnings, suspension or 'erasure' - striking off. He also pointed out that any money raised through fines went straight to the Treasury.
'I think fining is a complete waste of time. In principle I don't believe we are there to punish.
What's worse is that the [fine] money goes to the Exchequer - it doesn't even go to the ARB to offset the costs of investigation. Nor does it go to the client as compensation, ' said Hyett, who was clear that Tournoff must adhere to the current rules and pay the fine.
'Architects who have been found guilty of professional misconduct have to be dealt with appropriately, and by that I mean striking off, suspending or warning. But I would emphasise the importance of assisting architects who have been found guilty of incompetence to take the appropriate CPD.'
Robin Vaughan, chief executive of the ARB, says he looks forward to a 'good debate' over the issue - but insists that the rules were laid down in section 5.2 of the Act of Parliament which established the board in 1997.
'The Act does not give us the power to reprimand people apart from the four ways allowed to us - that is a reprimand, a financial penalty, a suspension order or erasure, 'Vaughan said.
Vaughan also said that it was right that the ARB was not in receipt of money raised by fines. 'If this was the case it might encourage us to fine people huge amounts of money, ' he said.
The hearing last week was the first time the PCC heard more than one case at once. Apart from the case of Tournoff, the committee suspended two other architects (Wilfred McCann and Alan Riddoch) for two years and fined Kenneth Davies £250 for not having professional indemnity insurance.