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Investigation of Morris was unfair and unwise

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I represented Ms Ingrid Morris at the hearing before arb's Professional Conduct Committee (pcc) which lasted three days, concluding on 21 January 2000 (see 'arb 'breached human rights'', News, aj 27.1.00).

The arb rules provide that the disciplinary procedure against an architect should be fair and just. In my opinion the procedure adopted against Ms Morris was unfair.

In particular, the complaint related to matters that had occurred in or about July 1990. The complaint that Ms Morris had breached her professional code was not made until 1996. The documents were voluminous and in accordance with arb's internal procedures; there should have been a detailed investigation process in which all of the relevant documents were considered and meetings took place with the relevant parties. In my opinion an architect investigator could have got to the bottom of the problem very quickly.

The prosecution was conducted by a partner in a central London firm of solicitors specialising in the prosecution of such matters. I believe his costs are paid for by arb. Ms Morris was subjected to a detailed cross- examination, but having won her case on all four charges she was denied her costs.

It seems to me that a few hours of sensible dialogue would have established that there was simply no case to answer and that the failure to investigate the matter in private, put Ms Morris and arb to unnecessary expense.

If Ms Morris had failed to clear her name she could have been struck off and that would have resulted in the loss of her practice. This case demonstrated that a difficult and determined client could make a complaint against an architect who might then face the risk of losing his or her practice and livelihood. The architect, in the absence of a proper investigation, would then face the prospect of a gruelling cross-examination by a skilled lawyer while possibly not being in a position to afford representation. If the architect chooses to instruct lawyers to balance the odds then that expense is not recoverable even if the defence is successful. The architect will not receive any support under the terms of the mandatory requirements of professional indemnity insurance.

Stephen Fairburn, John Healy & Co, London EC1

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