18 Jun BPEQ v N1
This case was a prosecution by the Board of Professional Engineers of Queensland (Board) against an unregistered person (de-identified as N) in the Magistrates Court of Queensland (Court). This was the Board’s second prosecution of N.
Two separate complaints were made against N which contained a total of 14 charges of carrying out professional engineering services when not a Registered Professional Engineer of Queensland (RPEQ). In addition, there were two charges of failing to attend an interview with the investigator appointed to consider the complaints, and a further three charges of failing to supply documents to the investigator.
N was not registered as a RPEQ at any time while undertaking the work the subject of the prosecution.
Conduct of N
In 2007 N entered into an arrangement with a RPEQ whereby they would supervise and certify the engineering designs produced by N for various clients in exchange for a percentage of each invoiced sum.
Over a period of some months, N carried out professional engineering services for a number of clients in relation to 13 properties across Brisbane. The work that N performed for these clients included designing a retaining wall, designing garages and carports, producing engineering drawings for house alterations, performing inspections of bored piers, footings, slabs, and timber framing, and producing designs for a deck.
N undertook the engineering work in relation to these properties without the RPEQ’s knowledge, and fraudulently issued a number of Form 15 Compliance Certificates for Building Design or Specification (Form 15) and Form 16 Inspection Certifications (Form 16) for the unsupervised work affixing the RPEQ’s scanned signature without the RPEQ’s knowledge. N took steps to conceal the unsupervised work from the RPEQ and denied undertaking work without approval when questioned by the RPEQ.
The RPEQ subsequently discovered a USB stick belonging to N which contained details of the unsupervised work and fraudulent documents, and subsequently made a complaint to the Board. While investigations were being made by the Board in relation to the unsupervised work, N failed to attend interviews with the Board’s investigator. N also failed to supply documents that were requested by the investigator.
What the Court Said
The evidence before the Court confirmed that
- N has never been a RPEQ.
- N had engaged the RPEQ to supervise the work, however none of the services provided in relation to the 13 properties were supervised by the RPEQ.
- the works performed by N in relation to the 13 properties were professional engineering services, because they required or were based on engineering principles and data and were not simply provided in accordance with a prescribed standard.
- N was given a total of three notices by the appointed investigator which advised that N was required to attend interviews on two occasions, and which required the production of documents on three occasions and despite receiving the notices N failed to attend both interviews, failed to produce the required documents, and offered no reasonable excuse for not complying with the notices.
The Court was satisfied that N had provided professional engineering services while unsupervised at the 13 properties and when not registered RPEQ, and found N guilty of the 14 charges.
Further, the Court was satisfied that N had failed to attend interviews with the appointed investigator on two occasions and had failed to produce documents to the investigator on three occasions. As such, the Court also found N guilty of the five charges in this respect.
Consequences for N
In determining the appropriate penalty, the Court took into account a number of factors, including that:
- N had previously been convicted of similar offences and had full knowledge that the conduct was not permitted under the Professional Engineers Act 2002.
- N had not been deterred by the fine imposed by the Court for the previous conviction.
- There is a need to both protect the public by ensuring professional engineering services are provided by a RPEQ in a competent way, and to maintain public confidence in the integrity of the registration system.
- As an undischarged bankrupt, N’s ability to pay a large monetary penalty must be considered.
- The total penalty to be imposed upon N must not be crushing.
Taking the above factors into consideration, the Court ordered that N pay a large global penalty for all 19 charges, and recorded a conviction. The Court also ordered that N pay the Board’s costs.