I have read with concern commentary in the press on the ARB's disciplinary procedure and would like to set out clearly the various stages in the ARB disciplinary process. I should state at the outset that the ARB's disciplinary procedures are intended to enable complaints against architects to be determined fairly.
Any complaint about the conduct or competence of an architect takes the following route:
The ARB staff collate written comments from both complainant and architect on the issues raised and, if it is the registrar's view that a substantive complaint (including conduct or competence) has been made, then the matter is referred to the investigation committee.
The investigation committee comprises three board members (two lay and one architect) and they have a range of powers, namely to terminate the complaint; refer it direct to the professional conduct committee (PCC); to appoint an investigator (an architect from an appointed panel); to seek legal advice; or to seek further information from the parties.
If a complaint is dismissed then the complainant will be given reasons for the decision.
If an investigator is appointed then the parties are informed and investigator's findings are considered by the investigation committee, which may or may not decide to forward the matter on to the PCC. Again, if the complaint is dismissed at this stage, reasons are given to the complainant.
When the investigation committee decides to forward a matter to the professional conduct committee, the Board's solicitors are instructed to prepare a report which is then served on the architect. The report details the charges and requests a response as to the intended plea. The architect then serves a defence.
The matter is then listed for hearing before the PCC. The PCC adopts a similar procedure to a court and will hear evidence and representations from the Board's solicitor and the architect (or his or her legal advisor).
The architect has a right of appeal to the High Court if a disciplinary order is made.
At all stages of the complaint the ARB is committed to keeping the parties informed of the progress of the complaint but, until the matter is in the public domain (that is, listed for hearing before the PCC), no press comment is made by the ARB.
Once a decision made by the PCC has been published then the Board, following general practice, proceeds as follows:
If a registered person is found guilty of unacceptable conduct and/or serious incompetence, the Board will state how the PCC came to its decision.
If the PCC finds a registered person has no case to answer, the board will not comment further.
The ARB will modify the existing rules to reflect changes in the general law or to address procedural issues encountered in specific cases. The rules are the subject of consultations with the profession and other interested parties.
The ARB has a range of leaflets about the process and anyone who would like these should write to me at the ARB.
Robin Vaughan, ARB chief executive and registrar