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RIBA President Steps Back into Top Role

Thursday, June 18, 2020

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Royal Institute of British Architects’ President Alan Jones is back in his role after stepping down months ago amidst allegations of misusing RIBA funds and a subsequent investigation.

He has also issued a letter of apology.

What Happened

In late March, Jones emailed members of RIBA Council that he would be stepping away from his presidential duties because “a matter had arisen” in his personal life. Because RIBA is considered a charity, the Charities Regulator was also informed of “a serious incident” involving the president.

The Times and The Architects’ Journal at the time both reported that Jones was accused of using RIBA funds to further an alleged extramarital affair. The institute hired external law firm Browne Jacobson to look into the matter.

While RIBA didn’t get into details, staff was told that Jones (who has held the position for seven months after being elected to a two-year term), would not be reachable for the next four to six weeks.

Honorary Secretary Kerr Robertson stepped in to oversee presidential duties.

The Charity Commission’s guidance says that “a serious incident” constitutes an adverse event (actual or alleged) that results in or risks significant:

  • harm to a charity’s beneficiaries, staff, volunteers or other who come into contract with the charity through its work;
  • loss of a charity’s money or assets;
  • damage to a charity’s property; or
  • harm to a charity’s work or reputation.

In Jones’ letter to council he said: “I’m grateful for the strong support I have from my wife and family. I need to take some time out from my duties as president and would be grateful if everyone could respect our privacy.

“I appreciate this comes at a time when there are extraordinary demands on everyone and I can only ask that you reinforce your support to our staff and senior officers during this period.”

Robertson commented on Monday on behalf of RIBA, saying: “Alan Jones has brought a matter to our attention which we are investigating. No complaint has been made. It wouldn’t be appropriate for the RIBA to comment further at this stage—we have an obligation to treat such matters fairly and confidentially.”

The incident was reportedly being investigated by police in Northern Ireland.

What Now

In Jones’ letter, he gives some detail to the alleged relationship and said that when he disclosed the matter to his wife and to RIBA, a report was then made to the Charity Commission.

“In December 2019 when I had been asked about this by members of the RIBA staff, I did not give a full and frank account of events. This I plainly should have done. I have now apologized to those concerned for this serious failing and have undertaken to the RIBA Board that nothing like this will happen again,” the letter reads.

“I am sorry for the distraction my conduct has caused to the RIBA at a time when our focus should be on supporting our members. I offer you all my sincere and unqualified apology.”

Browne Jacobson has reportedly concluded its investigation and a RIBA spokesperson says that the matter was resolved “fairly and proportionately” and gave no further details.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland have also dropped its investigation.

Jones is slated to remain president until August 2021, and the organization has already begun the process of his successor.


RIBA put out the call for nominations for the Presidency as well as several Council seats last month.

RIBA is seeking nominations for a variety of positions including:

  • RIBA Presidency 2021-23;
  • Royal Society of Architects in Wales Presidency 2021-23;
  • National Council Members (two seats);
  • Regional Council Members (13 seats);
  • International Council Members (four seats); and
  • Associate Members (one seat).

The nomination period opens today (May 12) and closes at 5 p.m. on June 16. After that, the timetable is as follows:

  • July 1 – candidates announced;
  • July 14 – elections will open for voting;
  • Aug. 4 – voting closes; and
  • Aug. 11 – results will be announced.


Tagged categories: Associations; Business matters; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); EU; Good Technical Practice; Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)

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