23 March 2012

Agreement reached on QASA

Agreement on a joint scheme to assure the quality of criminal advocacy has been reached by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), Bar Standards Board (BSB) and ILEX Professional Standards (IPS).

The scheme will provide a route by which all advocates, regardless of their prior education and training and professional qualification, will be assessed against a common set of standards. Live evaluation by judges for all advocates who undertake Crown Court trials will be a central element of assessment.

The scheme will begin in summer 2012, with advocates notifying their regulators that they will be seeking accreditation through the scheme. A final consultation will also be issued. Judicial evaluation will be phased in from late 2012 and will be available on all circuits by late summer 2013.There will be ongoing monitoring, evaluation and data gathering on all aspects of the scheme for two years from implementation. After this, the scheme will be reviewed and amended, if necessary.

SRA Chief Executive Antony Townsendsaid: "I am delighted that we are proceeding with a joint scheme for the quality assurance of advocacy in the criminal courts. This is a vital step to ensure that all those who are reliant upon advocacy services are able to access competent advocates to undertake their work."

BSB Director Vanessa Daviesadded: "One scheme for all advocates has been our aim throughout the development of QASA, because that is what best serves the public interest. I am very pleased that we have now reached agreement on the final aspects of the scheme and look forward to continuing to work with the other regulators to ensure its effective implementation."

Ian Watson, IPS Chief Executive, said: "IPS is ready to implement QASA for CILEx Advocates and Associate Prosecutors. It is time to move to the practicalities of implementation and we're looking forward to achieving that this year in line with the agreed timetable.

"The commitment to further research and evidence gathering during the start-up phase of the scheme is vital if an effective and stable quality assurance scheme is to be established in this essential area of legal work."

Around 8,500 criminal advocates provide defence and prosecution services in the Crown Courts in England and Wales, of which 2,500 are solicitor advocates and 6,000 are barristers. In addition there are another 10,000 or so solicitors, CILEx Advocates and CPS associate prosecutors who provide advocacy services in the Magistrates' Courts.