CIPFA statement concerning registered student Mr Callum Ridings


On 16 March 2023 a Disciplinary Committee of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and  Accountancy (“CIPFA”) heard allegations against CIPFA Registered Student Mr Callum Ridings.

Disciplinary Committee Attendance

Mr Ridings did not attend his hearing but was legally represented in his absence by Mr Stephen Elliott of FPS Law. 

The Disciplinary Committee Hearing

Mr Ridings became a CIPFA Registered Student in or about August 2018.

On 10 June 2021 Mr Ridings undertook CIPFA’s Strategic Public Finance (SPF) examination. He undertook the examination on-line, having previously studied the SPF course and received the relevant workbooks. 

The examination was conducted in accordance with CIPFA’s Assessment Regulations, which prohibit access to unauthorised materials during a CIPFA examination. Having undertaken a number of CIPFA examinations before 10 June 2021 Mr Ridings was well aware of what was, and was not, permitted. 

When Mr Ridings’ examination script was marked, the examiner had concerns about many similarities, and in places identical matches, between a number of his exam answers and passages in the SPF workbooks.

During its investigations the CIPFA Disciplinary Scheme also noted that there were additional significant passages of text identical to the learning materials in Mr Ridings’ exam script. 

Mr Ridings, when responding to the allegations of examination misconduct, stated that he had studied the materials and at no time did he access them during the examination. At the hearing he accepted that there were similarities between his exam script and the workbooks but denied misconduct stating that he used mnemonic techniques, similar to learning song lyrics, to memorise the materials.

The Committee took into account the explanation for the similarities put forward by Mr Ridings and bore in mind his previous good character. 

After closely examining the workbooks the Committee found Mr Ridings’ explanation not to be credible. It was not suggested that he had a photographic memory. Taking into account the extent of the materials that he would have been required to remember, the complex technical prose and the exact duplication, without error of grammar and syntax of entire passages, as well as duplication of word spacing, layout and punctuation, the Committee considered that he must have been in possession of, and had access to, unauthorised materials during his examination.

The Committee found that this use of unauthorised materials was dishonest. Having cheated in his exam, Mr Ridings had not acted in accordance with the CIPFA’s Assessment Regulations or with integrity. He had gained an unfair advantage over other exam candidates although this was short lived due to the diligence of the examiner in detecting the wholesale copying. 

The Disciplinary Committee’s findings on breach of the Institute’s Bye-Laws

The Committee found that Mr Ridings’ actions brought, or were likely to bring, discredit on himself, the Institute and the profession of accountancy (Bye-Law 23(d)). 

His conduct was a breach of the Institute’s Code of Ethics’ fundamental principles of integrity and professional behaviour and affected prejudicially the status, reputation or welfare of CIPFA (Bye-Law 23(b) and (c)). His actions displayed a lack of integrity in producing answers using materials he should not have had access to and in serious breaches of the examination codes and Regulations. Ordinary decent people would consider such actions to be dishonest. 

Sanction and relevant considerations

The Disciplinary Committee directed that Mr Ridings be expelled from the Institute.

The Committee found that Mr Ridings’ actions were fundamentally incompatible with student membership of the Institute. The dishonesty was at the top end of the scale. There was no evidence of remorse or insight and no reassurance that his conduct would not be repeated. There had been reputational damage to his employer, a public body.

In reaching its decision, the Committee took account of mitigating factors; Mr Ridings was of previous good character, had no previous CIPFA disciplinary findings against him and had engaged with the CIPFA regulatory process to a limited extent.

The Committee also took into account relevant aggravating factors; Mr Ridings’ actions were deliberate and blatant, involved significant portions of the exam script being based on course material and the dishonesty occurred in the hope of obtaining full membership of CIPFA and consequently chartered membership of the public finance profession.

The Committee found a reference produced by Mr Ridings to be of limited assistance in determining sanction.

The Committee also imposed a costs order against Mr Ridings.


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