Northern Irish architect found guilty of unacceptable conduct because of letterheadThe ARB's Professional Conduct Committee has found Mr Thomas Delahunt of County Down, Northern Ireland guilty of unacceptable professional conduct for calling his firm 'Architects' on company letterhead.

The Committee heard that ARB had written to Mr Delahunt about his headed notepaper which stated the firm’s name as ‘Delahunt Laverty Architects’.

ARB had pointed out to Mr Delahunt that the name included “Architects” (in the plural) with both his and Mr Laverty’s name shown in the bottom right hand corner of the letterhead. However, Mr Laverty is not an architect. Nowhere on the letterhead was this made clear, nor who was the architect at the practice. The suffix RIBA also appeared after both Mr Delahunt’s and Mr Laverty’s names though no record of either name appeared on the RIBA membership list.

Mr Delahunt responded to ARB and accepted its comments in full. In his correspondence he explained that although Mr Laverty is not registered, he believed he was entitled to be so. He stated that the use of the RIBA suffix was an oversight but that both partners’ names (and the RIBA suffix) had been removed from the firm’s headed paper, but that he would prefer to keep the title of the practice.

ARB had suggested to Mr Delahunt that a solution would be for Mr Laverty to seek registration with the Board and had sent Mr Delahunt the relevant application form. However, the Board stated that if Mr Laverty was not entitled to register or chose not to do so, ARB would have to insist that the trading style of the practice be amended to remove the implication that Mr Laverty is an architect.

Despite several requests for a response, ARB did not receive any further written communication from Mr Delahunt until after the matter had been referred for investigation.

Mr Delahunt attended the PCC hearing via telephone. In his written mitigation, he emphasised that he accepted the ruling of the Board, but would have much preferred to have retained the firm’s practice name for business continuity and from a sense that he and Mr Laverty had been equal partners since 1991. He asked that the Panel view his failure to respond in a timely fashion to the ARB’s formal correspondence, and his previous failure to regularise the firm’s name in the context of the difficulties faced by the firm as a result of the prevailing economic climate. He confirmed that the firm’s stationery had already been amended to “Delahunt Laverty Architecture” , all existing signage would be amended, and all clients and other contacts informed of the firm’s name change within a few weeks of the hearing.

Mr Delahunt also told the Committee that there was no intention to mislead anyone in respect of the practice name.

The Committee found that Mr Delahunt deserved credit for demonstrating insight into his failings and for attending the hearing by telephone. In addition, it found that by taking certain remedial steps immediately, and taking further steps in the very near future, he had not only demonstrated his genuine desire to comply with the Code and the Board’s requirements, but also prevented any recurrence.

In light of his subsequent actions and explanations, the Committee, although finding Mr Delahunt guilty of unacceptable professional conduct, concluded that no disciplinary sanction was required.

A copy of the Committee’s decision can be found here .