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ARB punishes architects over file copying

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The Architects Registration Board (ARB) has suspended an architect for copying files from his previous practice 

The Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) investigating allegations of ‘unacceptable professional conduct’ also fined his colleague for allowing the files to be stored in a safe at their new practice. 

Architect Jeremy Hutchinson, from North Yorkshire, was issued a three-month suspension for copying and referring to files from the practice where he previously worked. Michael Irwin was issued a £2,500 penalty.  

The committee said the pair had failed to act with ‘honesty and integrity’ having used copies of files taken from their previous place of work at Gelder & Kitchen Architects (G&K) to consult with clients at their new firm, Harris Irwin Associates Ltd (HIA).

Before leaving G&K, Hutchinson made and took a backup copy of files, including complete drawings, which Irwin kept in a safe at their new practice.

According to the board’s PCC: ’Hutchinson was responsible for taking a daily backup of the practice server. Before he left G&K, in May 2013, he took an extra copy of the backup of the practice’s project files on an external hard drive and retained it.

’After leaving a previous practice he not been able to access any of the work he had done while at that practice. He did not want that to happen again, and as his (and others’) departure from G&K was not entirely on good terms he feared that history might repeat itself.’

Hutchinson used the files to consult with clients who had moved from G&K to HIA, while Irwin accessed the back up on one occasion.

Project images were also displayed on HIA’s website, without permission or crediting G&K.

Allegations were made against the pair when a supplier working on a project for HIA informed a principal at G&K that the latter’s practice name was on a drawing being used by the former.

The PCC said the architects’ failings ‘diminished both their reputations and that of the profession generally’.

Both men admitted the allegations, and that they amounted to unacceptable professional conduct. The PCC acknowledged the unblemished career history of Hutchinson and Irwin, adding that their actions were ’out of character’. 

The PCC also noted that the information from the back up was only used for ex-clients of G&K, who had already moved to HIA, and was not used to induce clients to move away from G&K to HIA.

G&K filed for voluntary liquidation in June and the ARB ruled that no harm had been done to others, and that Irwin or Hutchinson had not gained from their actions.

The board decided that the two architects’ failings were different because Hutchinson made the backup of data without Irwin’s involvement. As a result Hutchinson was handed a three-month suspension from the register of architects, while Irwin was fined.

HIA declined to comment. 

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  • When is the ARB going to remind architects not to claim to be members of the ARB when they aren't?

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