6 OCT 2011
Mr M Jones [ 0059941], Kent ,TN13
Wednesday 05 October 2011
RICS, Parliament Square, London, UK
Jeff Marston (Lay)
Barrie Vincent (FRICS)
The Panel will hear the case concerning Mr Jones’ conviction, in accordance with Bye-Law B5.4.2 of RICS Bye-Laws 2009.
In addition a formal charge of:
Mr Mark Jones FRICS failed to disclose promptly in writing to RICS that he had been convicted of a criminal offence carrying on first conviction the possibility of a custodial sentence, contrary to Bye-Law 5.2.1(d)(i).
Mr Jones was present but not represented. RICS was represented by Mr Daniel Gutteridge.
Findings of Fact
The Panel was satisfied that Mr Jones had been convicted of the criminal offence in question because it had a copy of the Certificate of Conviction from Maidstone Crown Court signed by an Officer of that court on 11 December 2008. Mr Jones also admitted that he had been convicted.
In relation to the additional allegation of non disclosure of the conviction to RICS contrary to Bye-Law 5.2.1(d)(i), Mr Jones admitted this non disclosure and the Panel has therefore found it proved.
The Panel has determined that Mr Jones is liable to disciplinary action in accordance with Bye-Law B5.2.2 (d) because he has been convicted of a criminal offence which could result in a custodial sentence. He is also liable to disciplinary action in relation to his non disclosure of that conviction to RICS in accordance with Bye-Law B5.2.2 (c) because he has failed to adhere to Bye-Law B5.2.1(d)(i) regarding disclosure.
The Panel had regard to the Sanctions Policy. The Panel has decided to expel Mr Jones from membership of RICS.
Mr Jones was convicted in October 2008 of offences relating to child pornography to which he pleaded guilty and was sentenced in December 2008 to four months imprisonment suspended for 2 years. He was also made subject to a Sexual Offences Prevention Order until December 2015, or further Order by the Court, and placed on the Sex Offenders Register for 7 years. Mr Jones has not yet completed these ancillary orders imposed by the criminal court and is not scheduled to do so until 2015.
In May 2009 Mr Jones submitted his Annual Return to RICS. He was specifically asked on that form whether his firm, or any principal or professional of the firm had ever been convicted of a criminal offence of which the RICS had not already been notified and he answered no. The Annual Return submitted in April 2010 was in similar terms. In January 2011 Mr Jones submitted an application to the Valuer Registration Scheme. On that form he was asked whether he had been convicted of a criminal offence of which RICS had not already been notified and again he responded no. It was not until the Annual Return submitted in June 2011 that Mr Jones declared the conviction to RICS. Mr Jones said that the reason for disclosing at this point was that during the course of his rehabilitation programme, the need to face the consequences of his actions was acknowledged as being an integral part of moving forward. However, Mr Jones accepted that he knew when submitting those forms that he should disclose the conviction but failed to do so. The Panel takes this lack of openness and transparency very seriously. These are core values expected of every Member of RICS.
The Panel has taken into account that the Registration Panel, when considering Mr Jones’ membership of the Valuer Registration Scheme, considered it appropriate to impose a lesser sanction. However, the Registration Panel made it clear that it was not considering the question of Mr Jones’ suitability to be a member of RICS. That Panel also did not have the benefit of the Judge’s sentencing remarks which indicate the seriousness with which the Judge viewed Mr Jones’ behaviour. The Judge said that Mr Jones’ offending was so serious that only a custodial sentence could be justified. He also said that he was satisfied there was a significant risk of harm to a defined group of people, namely children, if Mr Jones were not made subject to the Prevention Order.
The Panel has borne in mind that the purpose of any sanction is not to punish Mr Jones, but to protect members of the public, to maintain public confidence in the profession and to declare and uphold proper standards of conduct of its members.
The Panel first considered whether any lesser sanction or combination of lesser sanctions would be sufficient in this case. It concluded that any lesser sanctions would not reflect the seriousness of Mr Jones’ conduct or maintain public confidence in the profession and its proper regulation by RICS. This involved not only criminal activity but a failure to be open and transparent with RICS over a prolonged period of time. The Sanctions Policy makes clear that in the absence of extenuating circumstances, expulsion is the likely sanction when a member has been convicted of a serious criminal offence for which the penalty could be a custodial sentence.
The Panel has taken into account that Mr Jones has no previous disciplinary record with the RICS. It has also taken into account the letters of support which say that his behaviour which gave rise to the conviction was out of character and that the behaviour was at a time when he was coming to terms with bereavement and at a very low ebb. It also noted the positive conclusions of the report by his Probation Officer at the conclusion of the Thames Valley Sex Offender Programme and Mr Jones’ admissions to the allegations and expressions of regret and remorse. However, the Panel does not consider there are sufficiently extenuating circumstances not to expel Mr Jones from membership, particularly when combined with Mr Jones’ persistent failure, over a number of years, to disclose his conviction to RICS. RICS cannot operate a proper system of regulation if its members are not open and transparent with it.
The Panel is mindful of the need, stated in the Sanctions Policy, to demonstrate to society and other members or firms that RICS takes firm action in order to protect the public interest and promote regulatory compliance; also the need to deter the member and other members or firms from future non-compliance. For the reasons given above the Panel concluded that expulsion was proportionate to these aims.
Determination on Publication and Costs
The Panel directs publication in accordance with Supplement 3 to the Sanctions policy. The Panel took into account Mr Jones’ request not to publish given his family circumstances. However, the Panel did not consider this personal request was a sufficient reason to deviate from the usual policy. The Panel was mindful of the need for RICS’ processes to be transparent to both its members and the public.
The Panel order that Mr Jones pay the costs of the RICS in this case of £4,270. Mr Jones did not oppose RICS’ application for costs. Mr Jones’ behaviour has led to RICS incurring considerable costs and the Panel has concluded there is no reason why they should not seek to recover them.
This decision shall take immediate effect.
Mr Jones has 28 days to appeal this decision in accordance with Rule 59 of the Disciplinary, Registration and Appeal Panel Rules.