LAW REPORT: Unregistered architect could not use `FRIBA'

19 march 1998: Jones v Hellard; Queen's Bench Divisional Court (Lord Justice Pill and Mr Justice Gage) 6 March 1998
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The use of the initials "FRIBA" in a business letter by a person who was no longer registered as an architect and was offering his services as an arbitrator constituted an offence under the Architects Registration Act 1938.

The Divisional Court allowed an appeal by the prosecutor by way of case stated against the decision of Woolwich Crown Court, which had allowed Ronald Baden Hellard's appeal against his conviction at Greenwich Magistrates' Court of an offence contrary to sections 1 and 3 of the Architects Registration Act 1938.

The offence charged the respondent with carrying on business under the style or title of architect whilst not registered under the 1938 Act, in that he had used the intials "FRIBA" in a letter and an enclosure thereto.

Elizabeth Appelby QC and Timothy Dutton (Wright Son & Pepper) for the appellant; Jonathan Marks QC (Shadbolt & Co, Reigate) for the respondent.

Lord Justice Pill said that it was not in dispute that the respondent had received a telephone request from a Miss Sahirad to act as arbitrator in a dispute between the company of which she was a director and another firm about alteration works at premises in Wanstead. He had replied by letter on notepaper which was headed "Polycon Aims Ltd - Adjudication and Arbitration" and had signed the letter with his name followed by "DipArch FRIBA FIMgt FCIArb".

At the material time the respondent was no longer a "person registered" as an architect for the purposes of section 1 of the Architects Registration Act 1938, though he had been registered for many years, nor was he any longer a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects (FRIBA). At all times Miss Sahirad had believed the respondent to be registered as an architect, and when she discovered that he was not, she had complained to the Architects Registration Board.

The issues arising on the appeal were whether the respondent's name followed by his qualifications under the signature to the letter came within the words "name, style or title" under which he was carrying on a business; whether the use of the initials FRIBA required a finding that it was a name, style or title containing the word "architect"; and whether the business being practised or carried on by the respondent was a "business" within the meaning of section 1 of the 1938 Act.

The court had no difficulty in holding that by placing his name and qualifications beneath his signature on the letter, the respondent was a person practising or carrying on business under that name, style or title within the meaning of section 1(1). Moreover it was his personal services as an arbitrator which were being sought and it was those services which he was offering. In the circumstances, he could not escape liability on the ground that it was the limited company and not the respondent which was carrying on the business.

The words "practice" and "business" could not be limited to practice as an architect or in the business of architecture. Such an interpretation would involve reading into section 1(1) words which were not there. As a matter of construction, there was no justification for doing that, and no policy reason which required the section to be limited in that way. Even if a limited construction were to be given to the section, it should in any event be sufficiently wide to cover practice or business as an arbitrator in a building dispute. Expertise in architecture was plainly a qualification for the appointment.

The acronym FRIBA did contain the word "architect"; it had no meaning except to denote several words, one of which was "architect". That construction avoided the absurdity of it being an offence to include as part of a title "Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects" and not an offence to use "FRIBA".

Kate O'Hanlon, Barrister

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