18 April 2012

Perceptions of criminal advocacy report

We commissioned ORC International to conduct research into the frequency with which underperformance is encountered in the criminal courts.

Commenting on the report, Baroness Ruth Deech, Chair of the BSB, said

"We are grateful to all those who took the time to complete the online survey, including barristers, legal executives, associate prosecutors and magistrates. We also wish to thank those that participated in the in depth telephone interviews, including the Legal Ombudsman, Victim Support, the Crown Prosecution Service, the Legal Services Commission, clerks and barristers. This provides us with a robust evidence base as to the high level of concern about advocacy competence in the criminal courts. However, we are disappointed that solicitors and judges did not take part as this would have given us more extensive data to analyse."

Key findings in the report include:

  • Over half of all respondents feel that existing levels of underperformance in criminal advocacy are having an impact on the fair and proper administration of justice, with 31% rating the impact as "very high"
  • A quarter of all respondents feel that criminal advocates "very frequently" act beyond their competence
  • Over three quarters of respondents feel that standards of advocacy have declined over the past five years
  • Three quarters of respondents feel that standards of criminal advocacy will decline in the coming years in the absence of any regulatory measures to address this

Public funding is having a very large impact on the provision of good quality advocacy, according to over three quarters of respondents. The findings from the report provide a baseline prior to the implementation of the Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates, which will allow for the effectiveness of the scheme to be evaluated once it is operational.

Some respondents wished to make additional comments and contacted ORC separately; these representations have also been factored into the report.

Download the report in full