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Disciplinary Panel Hearings

22 JUL 2010

Mr George Aldridge - 21 July 2010

Case of
Mr George Aldridge [ 0089000 ], Middlesex, HA2

on
Wednesday 21 July 2010

at
One Birdcage Walk, Westminster, London, SW1H 9JJ

Chairman
Lee Gledhill                            

Members
Sarah Baalham (Lay)
Andrew Crawford MRICS                                               

Legal Assessor
Matthew Lohn          

RICS Representative    
Vicki Buckley

Charges heard

The formal charge is:

You did not conduct yourself in a manner befitting membership of RICS such that your conduct was the subject of judicial criticism in the case of J D Wetherspoon plc –v- Van de Berg & Co Ltd., Christian Braun, Richard Harvey and George Aldridge [2009] EWCH 639 and in which you were found liable for dishonestly assisting Christian Braun in the dishonest breach of his fiduciary duty to Wetherspoon Contrary to Bye-Law 5.2.1.

Decision

Findings of Fact
In the light of the admission made by Mr Aldridge the Panel found the charge proved.

Penalty
The Panel has considered what the appropriate penalty should be in the circumstances of this case. It has noted the judgement of Mr Justice Peter Smith and his description of Mr Aldridge’s conduct whilst acting for JD Wetherspoon. The Panel has noted at paragraph 590 of the judgement, the determination that Mr Aldridge was liable for dishonest assistance in three transactions in which he was involved. The Judge stated at paragraph 589 that he simply did not believe Mr Aldridge in his evidence in relation to issues regarding a particular property. Similar findings were made throughout the judgement.

These findings are extremely serious and the facts as set out in the judgement included a number of aggravating features set out in the RICS indicative sanctions guidance including a lack of integrity, and losses incurred by Mr Aldridge’s client as a result of his false and misleading statements. His actions took place over a significant period of time; this was not a one off error of judgement. His actions led to adverse publicity for the profession and in particular he was the subject of judicial criticism.

In determining the appropriate penalty, the Panel has concluded that the seriousness of the matter means that a caution or reprimand would simply not reflect the gravity of the judicial findings.

The Panel believes Mr Aldridge’s conduct as evidenced in the judgement is drastically below that which is expected of RICS members. The Panel has considered whether the case could be dealt with by way of an undertaking or conditional order. The Panel has concluded that this would not be a proportionate penalty to make since it does not reflect the seriousness of the issues and moreover Mr Aldridge’s submissions before the Panel provided no reassurance that he had understood the gravamen of the issues that had been determined against him.

He showed no insight as to how his conduct had affected the standing of the Institution. Although Mr Aldridge unequivocally admitted the charge he nevertheless appeared ambivalent in his evidence as to whether in fact the judgement was correct.

The Panel has concluded that the only proportionate penalty in the circumstances of the findings made by Mr Justice Peter Smith is that Mr Aldridge should be expelled from the Institution.

The Panel is mindful of the effect that this will have on Mr Aldridge’s aspirations to continue in practice but it believes that it is necessary to protect the public interest and in the interests of upholding the confidence the public enjoys in Chartered Surveyors.

Publication
The Panel directed that publication should be made in line with the sanctions policy of RICS.

Costs
The Panel orders that Mr Aldridge pay the costs of the RICS in this case of £5029.50. In making this decision, the Panel reminded itself of Mr Aldridge’s financial circumstances but felt it appropriate to mark the liability of Mr Aldridge which if not discharged at present would potentially fall to be discharged if he ever sought readmission to membership.

Appeal Period
Mr Aldridge has a right to appeal against this judgement within 28 days of 21 July 2010.