10,000 Solicitors Registered for Criminal Advocacy as QASA Begins Next Year

by Criminal Defence Blawg on November 22, 2012

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Solicitors wishing to practice as criminal advocates will be subject to a new regime for accreditation from January 2013. The Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (QASA) requires solicitors to let the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) know of their intention to enter the scheme. And it seems that the scheme is popular – from figures recently released 10,000 have done so already.

Precisely how QASA will operate in detail was, until 9th October, still the subject of consultation, despite the requirement to notify having been imposed. The consultation process was in its fourth phase and covered how the scheme will be managed, the Scheme Handbook and QASA regulations. The SRA board is likely to approve the format of the scheme at the end of November before it is submitted to the Legal Services Board for approval in December.

Confidence in the standard of advocacy

QASA is being developed jointly by the SRA, the Bar Standards Board and ILEX Professional Standards. Representatives from the three regulatory bodies have formed the Joint Advocacy Group (JAG) which is responsible for strategic development and implementation of QASA. They are tasked with responding to concerns about the standards of criminal advocacy in courts in England and Wales and ensuring that, in future, the performance of advocates is measured against the same set of standards regardless of previous education and training. The SRA has stated” “QASA is designed to ensure that those involved in the litigation process have confidence in the standard of advocacy and advocates. QASA will ensure that all advocates in criminal courts only deal with cases within their competence. This approach reflects the SRA’s commitment to protecting the public interest.”

Although the full details have not been announced yet, QASA will utilise a process that combines accreditation and peer review. The standards being set by JAG will apply to four levels of competence. A Level 1 advocate will be able to undertake work in the Magistrates’ Court, while Level 4 advocates will be accredited to undertake the most serious criminal cases in the Crown Court.

Advocates will be able to progress through the levels by way of assessment. Those who elect to maintain their accreditation at one level will be required to apply for re-accreditation once every five years.

Controversial elements

A controversial element of the scheme is the role of the Judiciary. All advocates accredited at levels 2, 3 and 4 who undertake full trials in the Crown Court will be assessed against the standards set for each level by judicial evaluation in a number of live trials. JAG has said that no one individual evaluation will be determinative of an advocate’s competency. However, concerns have been expressed that this has the potential to conflict with the duty to always advance the client’s best interests. There are times when this requires an advocate to challenge judicial reasoning expressed as a trial progresses. This is a conflict that advocates who are being assessed for accreditation may be less inclined to become embroiled in. City Law School has been appointed to deliver a training programme for Judges evaluating advocates and only those Judges who complete the training will be authorised to undertake evaluations.

The advent of QASA represents a fundamental change in the regulation and accreditation of criminal advocates. With full implementation only a few short months away the final details of the scheme are awaited with some trepidation by practitioners.

This post was provided by John on behalf of BCL Legal. BCL Legal is specialist law recruiter who find and place law job candidates in the UK.

Criminal Defence Blawg

Criminal Defence Blawg

Criminal law blogger at CriminalDefenceBlawg
Criminal Defence Blawg is a criminal law blog, sharing legal expertise and intelligence from the UK, US, Australia and beyond. Contributions from those who share great legal information. Want to get published? Contact us today.
Criminal Defence Blawg
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  • mk-law.co.uk

    Solicitors and Policemen. In the always interesting The Policeman’s Blog Copperfield has some very cynical and jaded things to say about defence solicitors. The comments that he has received are split between some who sound like police officers.

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